Outside the Huddle finished profiling on Friday which 10 area gyms it feels are the best in northeast Indiana. We wanted to recognize a few of the locales that just missed the cut; in no particular order.
One thing you can say about the Northeast 8 is that it is a conference really without a bad gym. East Noble is a unique one with a upper level that covers three sides in a horseshoe shape. ‘The Big Blue Pit’ (main image) has a fiery student section and is an enjoyable place to watch games while being spacious. It has some unique features like the second floor visitors locker room and the lights out/spotlight national anthem and home player introductions. It is also unique in having the lights over the upper level bleachers out at game time, which may or may not add to the ambience depending on who you are.
This is a great old school little gym where it feels like you are right on top of the action. Players and coaches may or may not like that. It is compact and a seat at floor level is about as close to the game as you can we without being on the floor; on the opposite side, the teams sit on the first row. It can get pretty crowded on a big game night, but that is to be expected from a small town school with a gym that has existed since 1956. When it was built, the Churubusco gym was immediately one of the most unique locations in Northeast Indiana, hosting the Sectional that first season.
The Hanger is what its name would advertise; it really does look like a small airplane hanger and we are suckers for a unique design. Another small school gym that you can feel the heritage of; some of the bleachers are wooden, still a throwback bench style that can invoke some nostalgia. Other parts of Adams Central’s gym has seen some updating over the years. The overall look of this gym is unique and design is a big part of a great gym. While its’ county counterparts Bellmont and South Adams made our top 10, is it possible to say that Adams County may have the best gyms per capita.
A lot of people made sure to point out on social media during the countdown how gorgeous the Raiderdome is and that is something we can agree on. Big game nights, as pictured above, can really fill out the gym in a great way, as can the postseason when Southern Wells consistently hosts Sectional games. It really has a unique build for any gym especially for a Class 1A facility; there is nothing cookie cutter about the layout at Southern Wells, even when it comes to other gyms that may have a ‘domed’ look. Outside of the general design, a big appeal is how bright and colorful that the Raiderdome is. This is not a place, that even on a sparsely attended night, that you could ever construe as boring.
This is a tremendous gym of size for Class 2A and can hold a great capacity crowd, even if it doesn’t fill often. The way the gym is set up, with a completely separate second level, means that when there is a lack of fans in the upper level, there really isn’t anything taken away from the ambience. On those occasions, it can feel like a quaint small school gym instead of a monster facility that it really is. Bluffton’s court is very vibrant with the use of their red and the giant ‘B’ in the the center of the court. The student section is solid and we’ve always found that the family oriented fan base at Bluffton’s Tiger Den, including some die hard young fans, makes their following at home unique.
The upgrades to this gym have pushed it to contender status in the past couple of years. As the host site for the SAC Holiday Tournament, Wayne has really done a lot to make that one event get better all of the time and obviously that also helps in the regular season too. When you look at Wayne side by side with Northrop, a gym that is EXACTLY the same, there is no real comparison. New bleachers, new ceiling and better lighting in recent years change the ambience of Wayne and it is becoming one of the best locations in the SAC.
When you talk about Class 2A gyms, specifically in the NECC, you either have bigger than expected places or compact gyms that you would naturally associate with a small school; Prairie Heights is the latter of the two. This is really a close setting and that makes it endearing, especially as the Panthers have had better teams as of late. The team side of the gym is cool with four rows of bleachers right behind the team chairs/benches that are separate from the low “upper level.” It provides a good separation for teams without the fans having to be too far away from the action.
This is a place that it fun in how tough it is for opposing teams to get comfortable in. Leo doesn’t always win at home, but for one of the more partially nondescript locales on this honorable mention list, it certainly isn’t an easy place to visit and never has been. One of the very best things about this gym is the GIANT mural on the wall behind the team benches. The art itself is beautiful and really just hits you with that Lion thing. The floor at Leo has a good natural bounce to it, making it more free flowing for teams. This is another student section that really lights up the gym and the internet with their rowdiness and the fun they have with themes and enjoying the games and the players that represent their school.
This gym has gone from passable to really nice over the last couple of years with updates to the school. The new entrance is efficient in putting you right between the main gym and the auxiliary Fieldhouse where the freshmen are playing on certain gamenights. The new lighting in this gym is some of the best you will find anywhere in Northeast Indiana and the fresh updated graphics really make the lower level pop. What is even better is they didn’t take away from one of the most unique parts about New Haven forever: the caged upper level. It keeps a feeling of toughness in a gym that is now vibrant and welcoming.