Outside the Huddle is profiling which 10 area basketball gyms it feels are the best around as we spend some time this off-season looking at unique aspects of these facilities.
Each facility is rated on four factors – game night atmosphere, design, amenities and team success, as well as testimonials from the home team, the opposition and Bounce himself.
NOTE: while success does play a factor in these rankings, it certainly isn’t the biggest factor. That seemed to be a sticking point in the football field countdown from our readers.
No. 10 Concordia Lutheran
Location: Concordia Lutheran High School
First season: 1963
Named for: No name for court or gym
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 3.5
Want to be woken up immediately at the start of a varsity game? How about the Junior ROTC firing rifles with blanks during the starting lineup? This immediately makes game night at Concordia Lutheran different. For the uninitiated, it is startling but very cool. The band playing along the baseline is something semi-unique too and certainly adds to a distraction element for visiting teams during the second half of games.
The design is cool because of how you enter the gym from the very top, looking down through the cage that goes around the entire upper perimeter. If you are sitting across from the benches, you can get very close to the floor in the first couple of rows, so if you like the action close, Concordia provides a good spot for that. There are also unique features like the big columns under the home side basket that support the main hallway above. What the design lacks is the fact that updates aren’t common at Concordia. The lighting is bad, the hard plastic seats aren’t your friend, the gym floor itself needs some TLC and on a packed night, there doesn’t seem to be much personal space. Fun fact about the design: the team benches use to be on the baselines until 1997.
The concession stands are standard with good prices, but there aren’t things that particularly stand out. Athletic Director Tim Mannigel usually has one of the nicer spreads for hospitality rooms when called for and while that isn’t a big deal to a common fan, it does mean something to visiting teams, officials and media. Concordia does provide additional media seating behind their scorers table. Only knock would be that the gym isn’t as easily accessible for those with physical disabilities due to it’s entrance.
Team success: 3.5
Success has wavered at times, but when you have a history back to 1963, the Concordia Lutheran gym has seen its fair share of up times. From 2010-2013, the two basketball programs were able to compile three semistate trips, but the boys have totaled just six sectional titles (including in the first season of the gym). The girls have won 11 sectionals since 2001, including eight in nine years between 2010 and 2018.
Concordia Lutheran girls basketball coach Dave Miller: “Fans are close to the floor, fans can watch from above the cage. When first built, the gym was used both as the chapel and as the auditorium.”
Concordia Lutheran boys basketball coach Phil Brackmann: “Concordia definitely has a unique feel to it. First is its history. If you look at pictures from the 60’s and 70’s, the gym looks exactly the same with the stage and big maroon curtains. The only major update might be the backboards are no longer wooden. Second is the game atmosphere. With the band playing on the stage along the baseline to having the Cadet Mascot march out for the starting lineups and fire off the guns, I feel that we can get a nice home court advantage most nights. Third is the design. The nickname of “The Cage” around the top sticks out to most people visiting but also having the gym below the main level is unique. With the rich history of basketball in the Fort Wayne area, it makes playing in “The Cage” one of the few venues that can relate the present to the past.”
Snider boys basketball coach Jeremy Rauch: “It’s the experience. The nostalgia. The rifles. The fence. The sunken gym and the sunken lower freshman gym. Gotta love it!”
There are those who may question Concordia’s inclusion in a top 10 because of the fact that there have been few updates to the facility basically ever. But that is part of the charm. There aren’t too many old gyms that still have an original form and Concordia is certainly unique as you enter from above the gym. Nostalgia does matter and Concordia Lutheran has that in abundance.
Coming Wednesday: No. 9