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. 6 The Stardome
Location: South Adams High School
First season: 1972
Named for: The court has no name and the gym is named off the school’s moniker, the Starfires, as well as the unique shape of the arena.
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 3.5
Plain and simple, this depends on the night and a lot of times on how successful that South Adams is. When the place is packed, it is exciting because of how the sound reverberates off the true dome structure. That factor helps the atmosphere any time with crowd noise, official whistles and the scoreboard buzzer, but when the place is full, it is clearly better. The inconsistency of turnout can hurt South Adams a little bit in this category, but it has been better in recent years. When the students turn out, it is clearly better too as South Adams’ student sections can be the best in the ACAC when they want to be.
There are not many gyms like the Stardome in Indiana. It is in the top 65 size-wise despite being a Class 2A facility, but the unique design is what really sells this location. First off, it is a dome, which is rare and plays to the atmosphere noted above.
The angling of the court once you walk into the gym is fun and there is something substantial to be said about the seating along the baseline of the near-side basket. This seating is often where the Starfire lifer fans will find their spot, but is also ideal for those with physical issues that make it difficult for them to get into bleachers. Arguably, these are the best seats in the house.
It is also cool to be able to look down on the game near the railing of the upper level, be it in the seats on one side or the vacant spaces elsewhere. The fact that their rims are pro style and not hanging down from the ceiling makes upper level baseline viewing better. The spaciousness of the arena makes it a perfect home for the postseason and the ACAC Tournament finals. The floor itself could use an upgrade that would help the lighting in the dome.
South Adams lends to being fan friendly whether you are in the Stardome or not. Just outside of the arena, the common area is home to the concession stand, but also an area for fans to mill around, congregate or to be used as extracurricular space for fundraisers and such. They do, when called for, also host a nice hospitality room where you may be graced by the presence of South Adams football coach Grant Moser. In the area, the aforementioned space lets people move about freely to watch from a variety of angles and even on a busy night, no spot feels too confined.
Team success: 3
Success has been up and down in recent years and historically. South Adams’ boys team made it to the ACAC Tournament semi finals this past season, which allowed for a great home game in the tournament. The current excitement around South Adams sports, including its boys basketball program, is enticing but it has not won a sectional title since 1993, with just six total titles starting in 1986.
The girls side however has seen some top notch ACAC players as of late, making them conference contenders and winners of a sectional as recently as 2017, one of three of the program’s sectional crowns.
South Adams boys basketball coach Josh Hendrixson: “The gym is a great environment because it is a larger 2A gym. Seating on the floor at one end and seating above one basket makes it very unique. When we have some of our larger crowds, it is definitely a fun place to coach. We started seeing some larger crowds in the 2019-20 season, which made it fun for the kids and the community.”
South Adams girls basketball coach Brett Freeman: “The Stardome is a precious gem for a small school gym. As you approach the school, you see the large white dome on campus. It’s hard to miss. Once you enter the gym, you see the octagon shape around the border. It definitely adds a different element from most rectangular gyms. The professional type baskets perk it up and make the experience seem a little more special. There’s no mistaking when the horn blows in the Stardome. Reminds you of being in a large stadium watching a game. Along with the colored bleachers on the ground level is a small area of chairs for those who maybe can’t get in the bleachers and are our die hard lifetime Starfire fans. The upper deck allows for pretty good views from above with few obstructions. When the gym is filled to the gill it’s an amazing experience. I’ve witnessed a boys sectional championship game there that was standing room only. When my girls won the ACAC Tournament a few years ago it was a full house. 90% of the time when opposing coaches come into the Stardome they comment on how much they love coming and playing there. New coaches that have never been in the gym are in aw upon entering. The Stardome is truly a beautiful gem of a gym that every basketball fan should enjoy at least once. I’m fortunate enough to call it home.”
Adams Central boys basketball coach Aaron McClure: “The Stardome is one of the more unique gyms we have on our schedule. It truly does have a dome and/or arena feel to it compared to a normal high school gym. Due to South Adams being our county rival and the sectional often being hosted in Berne, I’ve coached in the Stardome probably more than any other gym over the past 19 years. I’ve had the chance to coach some sectional games there when the gym was full with nearly 4,000 people. There is probably not a gym in NE Indiana that’s any better to play in when it’s at capacity; it’s very loud which adds to a high energy atmosphere. My favorite place to play other than our own gym at Adams Central.”
I probably don’t get to South Adams enough considering how special the design of this gym is. Especially in this countdown, you will hear the phrase “there isn’t a bad seat in the house,” but there truly isn’t at South Adams despite it being spaced out much more than many other Class 2A and smaller gyms. Bounce loves the view from the upper level, great for photographers to get a unique angle. This is a special facility and you can expect more visits from Bounce and those capacity crowds next season, especially with the boys program expected to really shine with a team full of guys who will be in their third and fourth varsity seasons.
Main image by Chad Ryan
Coming Sunday: No. 5