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. 9 Paul Bateman Gymnasium
Location: Garrett High School
First season: 1968-69 (first game was January 31, 1969)
Named for: Paul Bateman was the school’s first athletic director
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 4
There are nights in almost all gyms that can feel lackluster and it has been seen across the area. Garrett does a tremendous job of improving on that even if it’s a Tuesday night and the stands aren’t packed. The announcing in the arena packs a lot of energy and it is possible to argue that they have the best pregame of any gym. Whether it is the sound system or the band playing, the music is always loud and sets a tone from the second you walk into the gym under the home basket. And those player introductions…lights out, spotlight on and train sound effects so realistic that they rattle your bones as if the track is three feet away. If game-night atmosphere at Garrett can’t get you in the mood for basketball, what can?
The gym itself doesn’t have the most unique look compared to some others, but it still lends to some unique spots to watch the game. If the band is present, they are under the visiting basket, which is a place that I prefer a band to be. If not, that location is a little more open and a baseline is a unique place to watch a game. Garrett is big with bleachers on the upper level going all of the way up. It is a spacious place that is a benefit for NECC and sectional games but when the upper level isn’t in use, the separation is good enough that it doesn’t feel like the gym is empty.
As will be noted throughout this series, a hospitality room doesn’t benefit everyone but Garrett knows how to do it right. Always a good spread for visiting officials, coaches and media for big events. Their concession stand has a solid selection of the usual game-night goodies and Garrett does have one of the best hot dogs in the area in terms of flavor and size for the price. Their many amenities make it easy for them to be a host site, as they were in 2019-20, for sectional play and the finals of the NECC tournaments.
Team success: 3
Until this past season, no Garrett team had won a sectional since 2014 but that changed with the girls sectional title. Total, the two Garrett basketball programs have tallied 33 sectional titles, which is a huge number. Success has been there in the past, dating back to 1923, far before the current gym; it just has not been as abundant as of late. The Garrett boys have won 20 sectional titles, but only eight since Paul Bateman Gymnasium opened. The lack of success overall lately could change with the girls team having won their sectional in 2019-20 with a starting lineup of sophomores and a freshman.
Garrett girls basketball coach Bob Lapadot: “The thing that makes the Paul Bateman Gym so great is our tradition. From the music when we take the floor, to the lights off introductions, to the quality of play in the floor, to having so many of our loyal fans that have been in their same seats for over 20 years (even the referees know where to look for them), that’s what makes a game night at Garrett so extremely special.”
Garrett boys basketball coach Bryan Leverenz: “Bateman Gymnasium has that great old school feel and when it’s set up for full capacity you can feel a sense of electricity in the air.”
Central Noble boys basketball coach John Body (former Garrett coach): “I love the pre game home player introductions (best in the area). When I was coach at Garrett, I approached AD Chris Depew about changing up/spicing up our pre game introductions. Chris was all for it. He and I worked together to develop what they have today to make it a fun intro for players and fans.”
You can have a really fun night in the gym at Garrett. It is a family friendly and always-jovial atmosphere. One of my favorite parts of watching games in this gym is something Coach Bob Lapadot mentioned above: loyal fans in the same seats and the officials knowing where they are. The interaction between longtime officials and fans is always enjoyable and unique and I got to witness it first-hand multiple times this past season. It is also important to note that this past season, the gym got to host a record-breaking night for the gymnasium itself and the girls basketball program when freshman Bailey Kelham scored 45 points against New Haven.
Coming Thursday: No. 8