David Woods
Indystar.com

Hinkle Fieldhouse is simultaneously a national historic landmark, museum and active building.

That was underscored when I went on a Hinkle tour conducted by Bill Lynch, the Butler associate athletic director whose responsibility is to help raise $25 million for the fieldhouse’s renovation.

Tours are first-come, first-served, and only seven of us took advantage of the one Monday afternoon. The tours – for students, faculty and staff – continue from noon-12:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) and 8-8:30 a.m. Wednesday. They start at the Wildman Room in the northeast corner of the fieldhouse.

Attendees are given a campaign coin bank for a fund-raising competition that continues through Nov. 2. The public phase of fund-raising formally begins Nov. 10, coinciding with the season basketball opener against Elon.

Lynch said the need to renovate the fieldhouse was underscored several years ago when a storm caused some bricks to fall through the roof.

Although I am in Hinkle often, Lynch introduced us to sights I had never seen and told us tales I had never heard:

– The space where the indoor pool was once located is enormous. The swimming starting blocks are still visible. For about a decade, this area has not been utilized for anything. Lynch said it was the site of the first indoor pool in Indianapolis. The three-story area will end up representing the biggest makeover, featuring a weightlifting room, academic services space and coaches’ offices.

– We toured basement locker rooms for football, baseball, men’s soccer, and women’s softball. Consider that when Hinkle was built in 1928, Butler had just four sports, all for men (football, basketball, baseball, track and field). Butler athletes and opponents shared the same showers until the 1990s. “Which is unheard of in athletics,” Lynch said.

Tony Hinkle, who coached football, basketball and baseball, kept his office next to the basement equipment room. Those cramped quarters were where he labored for more than 40 years, and where he spoke to reporters. He retired in 1970, but not until about 20 years later was the building that bears his name modernized. If you don’t understand how far Butler had fallen by the late 1980s, you don’t understand the magnitude of back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011.

– The women’s basketball offices along the west concourse used to be where Butler pole vaulters and long jumpers practiced indoors.

Scaffolding now surrounds the fieldhouse, where windows are being replaced and tuckpointing is being done on the 820,000 bricks. Funding for that comes from a Save America’s Treasures federal grant. The aim is to have scaffolding removed from entry gates 1-4 before the first basketball exhibition Oct. 27.

New chairback seats will reduce Hinkle’s seating capacity form 10,000 to below 9,000. A new video board with replay capability won’t look like something from the 1920s. But for basketball fans, the actual seating area will retain its vintage look.

The university has a website devoted to the fund-raising campaign, “History, Heart, Hinkle.”

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