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February 14, 2010
The Forgotten Fieldhouse
The Hoosier sports tradition is one of the proudest in the collegiate ranks, and what happens on the field has created memories, joy and sadness for the Indiana faithful over more than a century of action. What happens on the field of play has been great, but the surroundings in which those games are played are as much a part of the experience. Every other week through the 2009-10 school year, we will present a history of the athletic facilities at IU. In the eighth of our 12-part series, we take a look at the history of the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse.
Click here to see the original layout as it appeared in Inside Inidana! To subscribe, call 800-282-GOIU!
Following a legend is never easy. Oftentimes, the replacement is forgettable or doesn't live up to the standards of what came before.
The replacement becomes even more forgettable when it serves as a bridge between two legends. Take, for example, Lou Watson, who was a fine coach at Indiana but didn't win national championships like his predecessor - Branch McCracken - or his successor - Bob Knight. Watson filled the space in between, and younger fans might even look back at him as a temporary coach who simply took care of the program until the next legend arrived. Who knows? Maybe someday Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson will be viewed as the bridges between Knight and Tom Crean.
At Indiana, one of the biggest bridges in Hoosier history still stands. It's still a part of the landscape of IU athletics, and it has been serving Indiana sports for going on half a century. But ask most people where Indiana has played basketball, and the answer will quickly be Assembly Hall and the IU Fieldhouse, now known as the Wildermuth Center. After all, titles were won in those buildings.
But the Hoosiers also played at the New IU Fieldhouse, as it is still known to many in the IU family, a facility that is now known as the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse and served as a temporary home for Indiana basketball for more than a decade. Some of the legends of IU basketball played in the facility, and it continues to host Hoosier athletics to this day.
We know what you're saying.
"How does a temporary solution become a program's home for a decade?"
For that answer, we need to take you back to 1949 when all of IU's athletic facilities sat smack-dab in the middle of campus, and the current site of the athletic plant was nothing more than a family farm.
As the campus of Indiana University expanded throughout the first half of the 20th century, it became painfully clear that IU's athletic facilities were outdated and, more importantly, poorly located. The influx of students following World War II saw a boom in enrollment, but it also created a paucity of housing and created issues when it came to parking around Indiana's stadiums and arenas. At the time, football games were played at Memorial Stadium on 10th Street at the current site of the Arboretum, and basketball games were played at the IU Fieldhouse, currently known as the Wildermuth Center. Even baseball played its games in the middle of campus on Jordan Field, which is the current site of a parking lot outside the Indiana Memorial Union.
In the summer of 1949, Director of Athletics Paul J. "Pooch" Harrell laid out plans for the university to move its athletic facilities to an area north of campus, roughly a half-mile up Fee Lane. That dream, which we detailed in Issue 17, called for a modern football stadium, a basketball arena and a fieldhouse all to be constructed in one area and built at one time.
IU took its time making the move, and Harrell eventually resigned his post as AD to head the construction project for the athletic plant. There initially was talk of connecting the football stadium with the new fieldhouse and turning both facilities into one giant complex, but that plan never got out of the talking stage. It was decided that IU would go ahead with the construction of the three separate structures at the athletic plant, and a fourth structure expanding the men's gymnasium and the existing IU Fieldhouse for increased use by what was then known as the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, would be included as well.
The expansion of the HPER was a huge priority. The October 1955 Indiana University Alumni Magazine spelled out the key reasons why building a new fieldhouse at the athletic plant was critical.
"A fieldhouse, to seat at least 18,000 and possibly as many as 20,000 spectators, has first priority due to increasing University need for the present fieldhouse-gymnasium and adjacent space," the Alumni Magazine reported. "These needs include expanded intramural facilities for the greater number of students; drill fields and class room space for ROTC training, a required two-year course of military training for all male students; classroom and fields for the fast growing Physical Education course.
"Plans are already set for a new Fine Arts building to be built on present football practice field and for an addition to the present fieldhouse, along with extensive interior re-modification, to adapt the existing structure to these new uses."
In other words, for the HPER to expand, it would have to take over the fieldhouse, which meant a new structure was needed.
The Class of 1955 certainly agreed with that plan. Class president Mike Cusick announced that summer that a gift of $500 would be given to the university from the Class to be applied toward a trophy case for the 17,000-seat arena. Instead, the trophy case would end up in the new fieldhouse, and the architectural firm of Eggers and Higgins, who had long worked on IU projects, incorporated the trophy case into the blueprints for the west lobby of the building.
By February 1956, Eggers and Higgins had released their renderings of the new arena and fieldhouse to the public. The plans called for an arena that would seat a minimum of 17,000 fans and would be connected to the fieldhouse via locker rooms. The fieldhouse was to be far from luxurious with a series of concrete arches holding up a roof that would provide an indoor practice facility for football, baseball and track and field. Other sports also would use the facility in inclement weather. The entire project, according to a Feb. 4 article in the Indiana Daily Student, was to be a relatively low-cost affair.
"The buildings are part of a $1.5 million 'package program' to provide the University with the most modern athletic plant in the Midwest," the IDS reported. "The University, according to Frank Allen, athletic director, plans to carry out this whole expansion program in one building operation."
In other words, everything would be done at once. But, as the Robert Burns poem "To a Mouse" says, "The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry," and that certainly would be the case at Indiana.
The move to the 160-acre plot of land would solve the problems of having aging facilities in the middle of campus. It would also solve the problems of terrible parking and traffic issues as well as helping with the issue of a lack of lighting. The new athletic plant could provide ample parking - enough for 10,000-12,000 automobiles - and plenty of lighting could be added around the structures to make patrons comfortable walking to and from their cars.
Click here to see our photo essay "Gladstein Fieldhouse: The Present and Past"
The first order of business after putting together the plans for the facilities was to figure out how to pay for the construction. Allen announced in 1956 that the athletic plant would not be financed from tax funds. Instead, self-liquidating bonds would be issued to finance the construction, a method that had been used to pay for the construction of the newer dorms on campus and was used to pay for what would become the Wildermuth Center years later.
By the summer of 1957, work still hadn't begun at the site, and the athletic department continued to confer with the architects about the plans for the trio of buildings. Different administrators and members of the athletic department toured the country to look at the facilities at other universities to get ideas for what IU might do with its new construction.
Advertisements for bids for the entire construction project finally went out in late 1957, and Indiana had upped its budget to $12 million for all three structures. Other projects, such as the construction of a new baseball field and a university golf course, had already been completed, and IU was comfortable with the $12 million price tag.
On Jan. 30, 1958, nearly 300 contractors and subcontractors from around the United States gathered in Alumni Hall in the Union to open the bids. Tension mounted as the clock ticked toward the appointed time to open the bids, and the contractors were nervous about who would receive this gem of a contract.
At the scheduled time the bids were opened. It didn't take long for IU to become the nervous party.
The lowest bid was made by the Gust K. Newberg Construction Company of Chicago, who came in with a bid of $22 million, some $10 million more than IU had expected.
(Fun fact: The Gust K. Newberg Construction Company was involved in some high-profile construction projects over the years. Newberg Construction was one of the contractors involved with the construction of New Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1991, which would later become known as U.S. Cellular Field, and the company was involved in the construction of both the UCLA School of Dentistry in 1966 and the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago in 1965. However, it's not a good sign that when you punch in "Gust K. Newberg Construction Company" in Google, six of the top eight links take you to lawsuits involving the company, which one website says no longer is active.)
Considering the massive price tag, it didn't take long for IU to turn to Plan B. Since the bid was not broken down by projects, IU president Herman B. Wells and vice president J.A. Franklin toyed with the idea of just tossing out the bids and starting over. One alternative plan called for the projects to be contracted out separately instead of being treated as one large package. Maybe IU couldn't pay for three construction projects at once, but it might be able to afford one or two projects.
"The proposal figures as presented are the upset cost as estimated by the prosing companies and not the net cost," Franklin told the Jan. 31, 1958, Bloomington Herald-Telephone. "Therefore, the proposals as made include all contingencies and numerous alternates by which the cost can be reduced."
Indiana would be building the facilities on an agency basis, meaning each project would feature its own contractors. The question for IU, however, was which project to start first.
The answer, as it usually does, came down to money. Then, as now, football was the cash cow, so IU decided to go ahead with the construction of the new football stadium.
Harrell was all for that plan, but that doesn't mean there weren't some serious discussions about what might be done with the athletic programs as a whole. Chuck Crabb, the long-time public address announcer at Assembly Hall and the assistant athletic director for facilities at IU, knew Harrell when he worked for the athletic relations department as a student from 1971-73, and he says Indiana toyed with doing the unthinkable in the wake of skyrocketing bids.
"When the bids came in on the first opportunity in 1958, (IU) found they didn't have the bonding capability to do everything in their four-building project," Crabb says. "Things sailed on them. They had the academic component with the HPER addition, but then the football stadium so much of what happened was driven by having to commit resources to make major dollars. Football was that area.
"They thought long and hard about whether or not they would stay in the Big Ten Conference. That was a very prime discussion because we didn't have the Michigan Stadium or the Horseshoe or Camp-Randall or other venues of that size. Football had the priority over basketball for that construction."
Since a new football stadium would draw more fans, more money from parking, more money from concessions and more money from radio and television contracts, the decision was made to build the football complex. The rest of the projects, however, couldn't be easily dropped. With the commitment that was made to the Department of HPER, a new fieldhouse was necessary and would be a relatively low-cost addition to the athletic plant.
Wells also knew that a new fieldhouse could serve as a temporary home for the basketball program. Crabb says Wells asked for a few modifications to the plans. Most importantly, Wells sought a facility that could include seating for 10,000 fans, roughly the same capacity as the old fieldhouse.
"He figured we could use that until we could get enough of a bonding cap to come back and build the new facility," Crabb says.
During the June 6, 1958, meeting of the Board of Trustees, a cost estimate for the fieldhouse was given at $1.5 million. That number would be a fraction of the finances needed for both projects, but IU's hands were tied by the commitment with the HPER. Even before the project was fully financed, Indiana got busy grading and preparing the 160-acre plot for construction.
Although the budget figures appear quaint by today's standards, it's important to understand the investment that was being made by the school in context with the kind of money the athletic department was generating at the time. Only two sports - football and men's basketball (there was no women's basketball at the time) - actually generated any significant revenue, and even then it wasn't much by today's standards. The 1959 Arbutus reported that the football program was expected to earn roughly $627,000 during the 1959 season while basketball would bring in an additional $56,000. The revenue from those sports was used to help support the other nine sports IU fielded, plus the fencing and soccer clubs.
Oddly, there doesn't seem to have been a groundbreaking for either the football stadium or the fieldhouse. It seems the University was so anxious to get moving on the projects that it dispensed with the pageantry and focused on the construction. The financing for that construction was finalized in August, and as was typical, the fieldhouse was almost an afterthought.
The Aug. 21, 1958, edition of the Herald-Telephone made it clear who the start of the show was.
"Stadium Financing 'Hurdled'," the Herald-Telephone reported. "Financing, the last hurdle to construction by Indiana University of a new football stadium and other additions to its athletic and physical education plant, had been crossed today through the sale of a $6,500,000 bond issue. The purchaser of the bond issue on a competitive bid was a syndicate headed by City Securities Corp. of Indianapolis. Other participants in the syndicate are Collett and Co., Indianapolis Bond and Share, and Raffensperger, Hughes and Co., all of Indianapolis."
The article went on to say, "The new fieldhouse, designed for indoor sports, will be used for intercollegiate basketball until the University can build its proposed 17,000-seat arena. The fieldhouse will have approximately the same seating capacity as the University's existing structure."
The bond issue was planned to be repaid from athletic revenues and student fees over a 30-year period. Interest rates on the bonds varied from 4.0 to 4.375 percent, depending on the maturity date. The money was available and everything was in place. All that was left was for the contractors to head to the worksite.
By the time students returned to campus for the fall semester in 1958, work was well underway at the site. The IDS announced that the construction of the football stadium kicked off in August, and it added some information about the fieldhouse.
"The proposed fieldhouse, distinct from the arena, will be a 200-by-400-foot structure with an eight-laps-to-the-mile track. Also, there will be facilities for basketball, indoor football and baseball practice, driving golf balls, and wrestling, swimming and gymnastics."
(Editor's note: We're not sure where the IDS got the idea that there would be a swimming pool at the fieldhouse. There are no existing plans that describe a swimming pool being placed at the actual site of the fieldhouse. Plans for a pool were in the works near the fieldhouse, but never inside the fieldhouse.)
The IDS also focused on all the construction that was going on around campus. It's difficult to really comprehend the scope of all the building that was being done at the time. Everywhere you looked, the face of the Bloomington campus was changing. The Lilly Rare Book Library was being built, and just a few hundred yards to the southwest Ballantine Hall was rising out of the ground. Dorms either had just been built or were getting ready to begin construction, and the work being done out at the athletic plant was just one of the projects for students to gawk at.
Construction on the fieldhouse, however, didn't go smoothly. Inclement weather was an issue in the early going. Under the headline "New Stadium progresses despite weather drawbacks," the February 1959 Alumni Magazine provided the following update.
"Progress reports show Indiana's new athletic plant moving ahead at a remarkable pace, considering a winter of more than ordinary frigid temperatures, snow and ice.
"Although work on the fieldhouse has been preliminary in nature, footings have been dug and work is expected to accelerate with advent of more favorable weather. Timetables on the fieldhouse tentatively schedules that project for completion in time for the 1960 basketball season.
"Certain phases of the fieldhouse project, such as the temporary office building to house the Athletic Department staff and dressing rooms, are expected to be ready by football season."
When the spring thaw arrived and all the moisture dried up, the construction accelerated to the point that the athletic plant had become an attraction on campus. The May 1959 Alumni Magazine gave an update on the projects.
"With the unusually severe and prolonged winter apparently over, the old Faris farm off North Fee Lane, site of the University's new athletic plant, has become a beehive of activity," the Alumni Magazine reported. "Those who have not seen the site since last summer will have difficulty in recognizing it."
Following a few sentences about the construction on the football stadium, the article turned its attention to the fieldhouse.
"On the other side of the field the fieldhouse similarly is taking shape," the magazine said. "Probably the biggest change in the site is the contour of the land. For fill dirt for the floor of the fieldhouse and for filling beneath some sections of the stadium, giant earth-moving equipment is busy knocking the tops off hills. The roar of heavy equipment is steady from morning to night. For alumni visiting the campus it's a 'must' among places to visit."
Construction delays pushed the date of the opening of the fieldhouse into 1960, and even the athletic department offices that initially were planned to be ready by 1959 were delayed. Finally, by the summer of 1960, the athletic department became the first campus entity to make the move north.
"The Athletic Department was moved from offices it had occupied for nearly 44 years in the Men's Gymnasium to a new office building on the site of the new athletic plant," the June-July 1960 edition of the Alumni Magazine reported. "Leaving cramped quarters which were constructed in 1916, Department personnel occupy a 180-foot building adjacent and connected to the new Fieldhouse a half-mile north of Old Memorial Stadium.
"The new office building will be the new home of the Department until ultimate construction of the basketball arena, which will also house permanent offices. It is situated near the corner of Fee Lane and 17th Street. Not the least of advantages of the new site is the freedom for congestion and unlimited parking space for visitors."
The move had begun. The teams came next.
Despite the fact the athletic department had moved into the office buildings outside the fieldhouse proper during the summer - that's the reason the fieldhouse appears ahead of Memorial Stadium in our chronology of the athletic facilities - due to the later start for the basketball season, the New IU Fieldhouse didn't host its first game until after the 1960 football campaign.
A pamphlet in the IU Archives provided alumni with information on the new athletic plant and trumpeted the opening of the new fieldhouse.
"Though designed as a practice structure, it will serve temporarily as replacement of the old and no longer adequate field house where Hoosier basketball, track, and wrestling teams have achieved many victories and numerous Big Ten championships," the pamphlet read. "It will seat about 11,000 for basketball, more than the old structure, and will serve baseball for indoor practice, football for practice in bad weather, golf with driving nets, tennis with practice courts wrestling and indoor track, both varsity and freshman, with an eight-lap track and space for field events. Adjoining it is a temporary office structure, into which the Athletics Department, including all coaches, moved in June 1960. The new field house will be in complete use during 1960-61."
By November, Branch McCracken's basketball team had arrived and started to get used to its new home.
McCracken quickly took to one of the remnants of the construction. He mounted a mechanical lift and took to the air to watch his squad, but he quickly abandoned the perch because it was costing IU $10 an hour to use the lift. The basketball team began practice even as the workers placed the finishing touches on the project.
And what a project it was. Thanks to the fact the New IU Fieldhouse was 100 feet longer than the "Old" IU Fieldhouse, more seating could be brought in, and capacity was set at 10,300. The bleachers included 20 rows of seats on the north and south sides of the floor, 28 rows on the west end and 32 rows on the east end. The stands on the south side rolled against the wall to provide more room, and those bleachers were flanked by temporary stands on both sides.
The press box was 120 feet long, allowing room for both television and print media to exist in one area, something that wasn't the case at the Old IU Fieldhouse. Instead of painting the press box crimson to match IU's colors, the press box was painted green for no other reason than there was a lot of green paint left over from the painting of the bleachers.
Other improvements over the Old IU Fieldhouse included better ventilation and a better sound system - McCracken took advantage of the speakers by playing music on the PA to relax his team - and a system of mercury vapor lights improved the lighting of the basketball court.
(Fun fact: The mercury vapor lights threw off 50 foot candles of light at floor level and between 60 and 65 foot candles of light at eye level. The Old IU Fieldhouse lighting system provided just 28 foot candles of light. Oh, and in case you were wondering, "foot candles" of light is a real, scientific measure of the amount of light put off by a light source. One example of how to measure foot candles of light is to light a candle, measure 12 inches away from the candle and record the amount of light the candle generates at that distance from the source. One foot candle is approximately equal to 10.765 lux, which is another measure of light. Don't ask how much light is in a lux. This is a fun fact, not a science lab.)
Although IU brought the basketball floor from the Old IU Fieldhouse, which stood some 30 inches off the ground, an investment was made in a new floor according to the Nov. 30, 1960, edition of the IDS. The paper reported that a new maple hardwood floor had been purchased at a cost of $18,000, and it would rest just 18 inches off the ground. Overall, the structure contained 80,000 square feet of floor space and 2,480,000 cubic feet.
McCracken quickly ran into a problem with the new fieldhouse. Balls would routinely bounce off the court and go under bleachers, but he solved the issue by surrounding the court with a bright red tarp. The tarp not only kept balls from flying around the fieldhouse, but it also provided privacy for practices.
There also were advances in terms of a scoreboard. The IDS was impressed with its first sight of the new item.
"Hoosier fans will certainly be well informed on the vital statistics as the game progresses," the Nov. 30 IDS said. "Hanging above the middle of the floor is a large, four-sided scoreboard which records the score and the time remaining. At each end of the floor there is a scoreboard that gives the score, time remaining, team fouls, the number of the player who commits a foul and the free throws coming. These scoreboards will be transferred later to the new 17,600-seat arena when it was completed.
The total cost of the New IU Fieldhouse came in at $1,694,725.
Along with the New IU Fieldhouse came a new ticket policy for the students, one that didn't necessarily thrill the students. A total of 6,500 seats were reserved for students at 50 cents each for the 11 home games of the 1960-61 season, bringing the cost of a season ticket to $5.50. The catch, however, is that season tickets weren't really offered. Instead, each student had to buy the tickets on a single-game basis with seniors getting priority, and they were limited to purchasing two tickets at a time. Parking for students at the venue was free as long as they arrived at least one hour before game time. If they arrived less than 60 minutes before tip-off, parking was 50 cents.
Students weren't happy with the policy, but Max Schulze, a senior who was president of the Student Athletic Board, said that IU's policy was actually better than it was at other Big Ten schools, which allowed students to only purchase tickets for three or four games a year. General admission tickets would remain at $2 each.
(Fun fact: Other changes were being made on the Bloomington campus as well. The Association of Women's Students voted on extending women's weekday hours in late November. The measure was designed to push back the time women were required to be inside their housing units from 10:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - Wednesday hours were already set at 11:30 p.m. - to 11 p.m. for all weekdays. The hours of 12:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday would remain unchanged. The measure passed with Bonnita Richards, AWS president, saying the move was taken so women could spend more time in the libraries and "relieve the dating pressure of Wednesday evenings.")
Finally, on Dec. 3, 1960, Indiana took on Indiana State in the first game in the New IU Fieldhouse. Indiana won 80-53 with senior Walt Bellamy scoring 20 points. Included on that team was a sophomore by the name of Jimmy Rayl, who would enjoy a record-setting career at the facility.
A new era of Hoosier basketball was born. IU posted a 15-9 record overall in its first year at the New Fieldhouse and finished fourth in the Big Ten standings behind Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue. That Ohio State team, by the way, featured a little-used forward by the name of Bob Knight. Following the season, Bellamy graduated, but Rayl, Tom Bolyard and Ray Pavy, plus the addition of twins Tom and Dick Van Arsdale in 1962, would keep the Hoosiers competitive for at least a few more years.
So just what was the atmosphere like in the New IU Fieldhouse? We'll let Chuck Crabb describe it for you.
"It had kind of a circus atmosphere to it," Crabb says. "All four corners of the building had concession trailers where they fried hamburgers, cooked hot dogs and made popcorn and cotton candy. It had almost a circus feel to it. It was a very unique building."
That circus-like atmosphere extended to the floor, which was a combination of dirt and sawdust. That led to some challenges for the players at times.
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"The basketball floor was elevated as it had been in the old Fieldhouse," Crabb says. "There was a run-off at either end, and players had to walk across knock-off mats to get the sawdust off their feet before they could go onto the court. Sometimes that would be really interesting. If they went flying after a loose ball at the end of the court, if they kept running, ultimately after about 12 or 13 feet, they would drop off. They would have to go back to a knock-off mat, clean their shoes and go back on the court to catch up with the play at the other end of the floor."
Hall-of-Fame sportswriter Bob Hammel, the retired sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Telephone and all its incarnations, remembers the place fondly as well.
"It was very similar to the other fieldhouse," Hammel says. "It was about the same size crowds, and it could get loud."
Although the Fieldhouse wasn't a permanent solution for basketball at IU, it still compared favorably to other venues in the conference.
"Only at Indiana was it temporary," Hammel says. "It was comparable to any other place of the time in both noise and as far as the facility. It wasn't a bad basketball facility. It just wasn't luxurious at all. Purdue had Mackey by then, Illinois had built Assembly Hall by then, and the new arenas were there."
The basketball court was the centerpiece of the Fieldhouse from November-March each year, but once the season was over, the bleachers were either dismantled or moved out of the building. For instance, one section of the bleachers also served as end zone seating at Memorial Stadium during the fall, and those same bleachers were still in use until the recent renovations at the stadium. Once all the seating was moved out of the complex, the Fieldhouse was used for a variety of activities, including the planned use as an indoor practice facility for football, track and field and baseball. Commencement exercises also were an option, as were various other organizational activities over the years.
One of the highlights of the 11 years IU spent playing basketball at the venue included Rayl's performance vs. Minnesota Jan. 27, 1962. In a tight game that eventually went to overtime, the 6-2 guard from Kokomo, Ind., dominated on the offensive end. He made 20-of-39 shots from the floor, drained 16-of-20 free throws and scored on a 20-foot jumper in the closing seconds to lead IU to a 105-104 win. Rayl finished the game with a Big Ten-record 56 points. Just to prove that wasn't a fluke, Rayl matched his performance with a 56-point outing vs. Michigan State Feb. 23, 1963, and his Big Ten record would last until 1966. Those two 56-point games still rank third on the Big Ten's single-game scoring list and is the IU record to this day.
Indiana suffered a heartbreaking loss in the building in 1965, when No. 1 Michigan came to town for a battle with the No. 7-ranked Hoosiers Feb. 15. Both teams were 15-2, and IU led 81-74 with 1:09 to play. Wolverines guard Cazzie Russell, however, wouldn't let his team lose, and he scored seven straight points to force overtime, and Michigan eventually won in the extra session.
The 1964-65 season was a turning point for the Hoosiers. Not only would the Van Arsdales graduate, but McCracken tendered his resignation to IU president Elvis Stahr on March 1. McCracken coached his final home game vs. Purdue March 6, with IU beating the Boilermakers 90-79. He received a huge ovation from the crowd and a plaque following the game, and he missed what would have been his final game as a head coach when he came down with the flu for IU's March 8 game at Wisconsin. Lou Watson, McCracken's appointed successor, coached that game, and an era came to an end in Bloomington.
Despite the consensus that the New IU Fieldhouse was a successful basketball venue, the notion that the Hoosiers would move to bigger, better things never was far from anyone's mind. Ground was broken on what would become Assembly Hall in 1967, and four years later IU played its final game at the New Fieldhouse. Watson, however, would not be around for that final game. He resigned amid growing fan anger at his lack of success with the program, an anger that included signs appearing at the Fieldhouse that carried such slogans as "Lose Lou, We'll Win 'Em All!" When the players turned on him, as well, Watson decided to walk away.
Watson, who was deeply hurt by the criticisms, resigned, "for the best interest of the team, the university and my family. I am proud of my 22 years as a player and a coach. I will do all in my power to help my successor and wish him and each member of the squad every success."
Assistant coach Jerry Oliver, who had filled in for Watson during the 1969-70 campaign when Watson was out following back surgery, took over for what would be the final basketball game at the New IU Fieldhouse.
"It was just an ugly atmosphere," Hammel recalls. "There were a lot of emotions. It was a very unhappy basketball game. There was no festive feel to it. The whole concept of a Senior Day hadn't even been started then, and (the players) were just playing out the string. They just wanted to get it over with."
One bright spot for that year's squad was the play of sophomore George McGinnis, who averaged 29.9 points and 14.9 rebounds to become the first player to lead the Big Ten in both categories. Only Purdue's Glenn Robinson would ever repeat that performance. McGinnis, who would bolt for the professional ranks following the season, paid a price for the Hoosiers' insurrection against Watson. The team played in a daze in the final game, losing 103-87 to Illinois, and McGinnis scored a season-low 17 points and fouled out in the middle of the second half.
"It was just a phenomenal sophomore year, but it had an unfortunate finish because he should have gone into the books with a 30-plus league average and set records," Hammel says. "As it is, 29.9 (points per game) is the (Indiana single-season) record, but it would have been nicer with 30."
Unfortunately for the New IU Fieldhouse, the swirl of intrigue surrounding the men's basketball program pushed it out of the spotlight. Despite the fact the Hoosiers played their final game in the Fieldhouse, there was nothing written about the history of the arena. Everyone was either focused on the excitement over the opening of Assembly Hall or the questions surrounding the coaching search.
"It was probably an oversight on the part of the sports editor (of the Herald-Telephone)," jokes Hammel, who, of course, was the sports editor of the Herald-Telephone at the time.
Another reason for the delay in attention for the arena was more practical.
"For the lack of concentration (in coverage) on the last game, they weren't entirely sure they would have Assembly Hall ready," Hammel says. "That was kind of uncertain over whether it would be ready for the start of the 1971-72 season."
The arena would, in fact, be ready for the 1971-72 season, and a young coach from Army named Bob Knight was tapped for the position. He was the first Hoosier basketball coach to be hired without having played for IU since Leslie Mann in 1923, and he would open a new era in Indiana basketball in a new building.
The Hoosiers finished their 11 years at the facility with an 85-41 record, giving the program a .675 winning percentage in the building.
Parts of the New IU Fieldhouse lived on for years in Assembly Hall. The basketball floor was brought into the new facility and used through the 1975-76 season, and the bleachers that stood on the south wall of the Fieldhouse were used in Assembly Hall through the 1994-95 campaign. Meanwhile, a renovation was undertaken at the New IU Fieldhouse to convert it to what had been its original purpose. In the summer of 1972, a Tartan track surface was installed at the Fieldhouse at a cost of roughly $280,000 for use by the track team, and a Tartan turf surface - basically a brand of artificial turf - was included in the renovation. Jeff Richardson, student body president, and Robert Garton, a member of the state budget committee, originally opposed the turf, but they relented when IU promised the Fieldhouse would only be used for a limited time by the track team each day. John Pont, the Hoosiers' football coach at the time, also promised not to use the Fieldhouse in the event of bad weather, robbing the program of an indoor training facility.
Meanwhile, the office buildings just outside the Fieldhouse were becoming obsolete. The opening of Assembly Hall saw the Athletic Department move to the new structure, and the University toyed with the idea of moving the Ticket Office to the area. That plan was nixed for the time being, however, mainly because the Fieldhouse was so far from the center of campus.
"When the Assembly Hall was designed I understand there was some discussion regarding the inclusion within the plans for a Ticket Office, but that it met with some opposition primarily because of its then remote location from the center of campus so there was nothing included in the plans for a central ticket office," IU Director of Athletics Bill Orwig wrote in a 1970 letter to Dean Charles W. Hagen, Jr., who was associate dean for academic affairs and facilities planning. "However, it certainly would be feasible to explore the possibility regarding its location in the Assembly Hall. I have a strong feeling that the athletic ticket phase should be located in the athletic area."
The office building was razed sometime in the 1970s.
The New IU Fieldhouse quickly settled into its rhythm as a catch-all practice facility and track and field venue, and it hosted a number of championship meets over the years. A Mondo Super-X runner surface identical to the one used at the Atlanta Olympics was installed in 1996, and 26 track records fell.
Although the decision to rename the Old IU Fieldhouse the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center in 1971 finally gave the New Fieldhouse an identity of its own, it finally received a proper name in 1997. On June 6 of that year, IU was hosting the NCAA Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field championships, but early morning rain put the meet in jeopardy. It was nearly moved inside, but the rain finally let up and the meet remained outdoors.
That certainly was a positive for the Fieldhouse, which once more could have been overshadowed due to circumstances beyond its control. Instead, a ceremony was held as planned to christen the facility as the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse. Gladstein was a 1931 IU graduate who was a student manager for the track team during his college days, and he had a long history of supporting the track program via contributions. It was a donation by the Gladstein family that allowed the Fieldhouse to undergo the $1 million renovation that brought the Mondo Super-X track to the facility. New event equipment and a Daktronics computerized scoreboard and message board had been added as well.
With Harry's son, Andy, and his widow, Edith, on hand, IU renamed the facility in Harry's honor. Andy told onlookers that his father would be upset by the honor because he preferred his donations to be anonymous, but he was still pleased with Indiana's decision.
"I can only hope this fieldhouse brings as much pleasure and joy to IU as IU did to my dad," Andy Gladstein said.
In the nearly 13 years since the fieldhouse was renamed, the Gladstein Fieldhouse has continued to serve IU athletics with little trouble. The fact the facility connects to Assembly Hall via a hallway has allowed student-athletes to come and go without being forced out into inclement weather, and the facility is always available for athletes who want to get in some work in their respective sports.
Although the Gladstein Fieldhouse has taken a backseat to other athletic facilities on the Bloomington campus over the years, it still remains a bridge to the older facilities and a time when IU was much more centralized than it is now. The other bridge, of course, sits to the west of Gladstein, and its construction helped push Hoosier athletics into the modern era.
That, however, is a story for another time.
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Ken Bikoff can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] He wishes he could have seen a basketball game played at the Gladstein Fieldhouse but is pleased to own one of the bleachers seats from the facility.