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. 8 The Teepee
Location: Bellmont High School
First season: 1970-1971
Named for: Themed with school mascots of Braves and Squaws
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 3.75
When Bellmont’s student section is on their game (which they are more often than not) it really enhances the atmosphere. They can take up around one-fourth of the lower level seating and in big games are certainly boisterous, especially on some of their more wild theme nights.
Bellmont is one of those places that certainly benefits from being in a small town. There are Bellmont people that have been Bellmont people for life and they will show up and feel connected to the teams for years and years. That level of hardcore fan isn’t what we’d call rare, but it always adds to the atmosphere when the following is die-hard.
The pregame intros are fun too, another place that lowers the lights to spotlight the players being introduced. Nights in the Teepee aren’t always on the highest level of atmosphere, but when they are, it rivals the best atmospheres anywhere in the area.
There is no doubt that the Teepee has a distinct look with quality depth in the seating. Having baseline seating only on the upper level is unique because that is something that you don’t see often at all. It certainly adds to the pit-like look of the gym where seating is available courtside but the highest amount of angles to watch a game is up top. When you are in the lower seating, you feel really like you are right on top of the floor, especially along the far sideline from the benches where the student section sits.
The floor in another aspect at Bellmont that is unique with the contrast of the wood with the navy blue inside the arc and the red inside the paint. This is one of the few gyms with hoops that aren’t suspended from the ceiling; instead they are supported from the floor, giving a nice throwback Fieldhouse vibe even through upgrades over the years.
As construction starts closing down, getting in and out of the parking at Bellmont has really opened up nicely and it is easier to move about campus. It is nice to have multiple entry points to the gym, something you don’t get everywhere and helps to avoid congestion on bigger game nights. While part of the design, it is an amenity to have the space that Bellmont has on the upper level. While lower level seating can be confining, there is plenty of space up top to move around, especially with younger kids who may get antsy.
Team success: 3
The rebuilding of the girls program has been a hallmark of this program over the past four to five years. They had a bit of a lull after doing so well in a couple of spurts in the late 70s, early 80s and again in the early 90s. All together, the gym has seen 10 Bellmont girls basketball sectional champion teams. It has seen 13 sectional champion teams on the boys side, including in their first season. Arguably the best success for the program came from 2001-2005, including a state finals trip in 2004. Bellmont has not won a sectional title with either gender since the boys in 2005.
Bellmont boys basketball coach Jonathan Fuelling: “Where to start? Bellmont basketball has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; going to basketball camp while in grade school, waiting after games for an autograph session on the gym floor, getting your name on a locker in the varsity locker room and looking to see who else used that locker, being an assistant coach there fresh out of college and now having the opportunity to coach there myself. From the beginning of warmups, you can feel the energy and it only gets better as the drum line comes down in front of the student section and our announcer, who has been there for 30+ years, announces the starting line with only the spot light shining on our bench. The elementary and middle school students line the floor waiting for a chance of high fives and possibly a t-shirt thrown their way. and to see the fans that have been coming for decades in the bleachers, some sitting in the exact same spots since the gym opened, that’s just some of the “stuff” that makes Bellmont Basketball so special.”
Bellmont girls basketball coach Andy Heim: “I love our gym. It is just big and compact enough for a great atmosphere. Our fans have been awesome the last few years. They have their own Twitter account and come up with theme nights which really creates a college type feel. The fans and atmosphere have lead to a lot of home victories.”
Norwell girls basketball coach Eric Thornton: “Bellmont’s gym has great character to it. Their basketball goals are supported from floor posts instead of from ceiling supports, and there isn’t much room on the baseline as the walls are directly behind the posts. This gives players a great shooting background. The lower-level seating is right on top of the team benches, and the upper-level provides unique angles for viewing the game from behind the basket. Their concession stand might be the best in the area, and because of its design and the great hospitality that Dale Manis and his staff provide, Bellmont’s gym is just a really fun venue to compete in.”
Going to Bellmont is always going to make for a good night. There is something to be said about a gym that has the seating space that Bellmont does but still feels so small and comforting. Games here are fun with non-high school fans who are die-hard. A lot of places can do great student sections, and Bellmont is in that market, but to have the hardcore fans who are lifers does add to any good game night. The NE8 has a lot of really good gyms, but Bellmont is certainly on the upper end of the special ones.
Coming Friday: No. 7