Mention basketball among sports circles, and inevitably Indiana will come up as part of the conversation, whether it’s Butler University’s 2010 Final Four championship, Larry Bird, former basketball great from Southern Indiana and now president of the Indiana Pacers, or Big 10 rivals Indiana University and Purdue University. Basketball is a way of life for Hoosiers.
The icon of the sport has become Conseco Fieldhouse, the first retro-themed arena in the NBA. There’s no question Conseco Fieldhouse’s architecture is a modern-day approach to the storied and historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University, about 10 minutes north of downtown. Ellerbe Becket Architects & Engineers designed the basketball arena to reflect Hoosiers’ love for the game within an environment that evokes the sights, sounds and feel of established sports cathedrals, such as Notre Dame Stadium and Lambeau Field.
Exposed girders, arched windows and wooden signs pay homage to Indiana’s basketball heritage. From the minute fans enter the front doors, there’s never a doubt that basketball rules here. The Fieldhouse seats 18,345, including the club-level suites. No matter where you’re sitting, however, you feel like you’re in the middle of the action. Fans especially like the concourse level that’s nearly 60 feet wide, circles the perimeter and is lined with concession offerings.
The arena design draws you into the main entrance off Pennsylvania Street where steps lead to the majestic arch and the expanse of glass. The wall of glass is contrasted by the bold lines created with the rectilinear brick façade.
Indianapolis’ Blackburn Architects designed the box office, Virginia Avenue pedestrian bridge and entry pavilion, all which play a role in welcoming fans. The use of brick, metal and glass combined with architectural detailing emulate the exterior design and help carry the retro design throughout the facility. The home team locker rooms have custom-maple lockers and high-tech video capabilities that allow detailed coach and team review sessions. Players often hang out before and after games in a private lounge connected to the locker room.
Throughout the facility, you’ll notice the infusion of the Indiana Pacers team colors, such as the indigo blue carpets and warm golden maple finishes.
Conseco Fieldhouse has been named one of the best basketball venues in the NBA. But, it’s not just pro basketball players who compete here. The arena floor has been transformed to an ice rink for hockey, a dirt floor for bull-riding, and in 2004, a temporary Olympic-size swimming pool was built inside the Fieldhouse for the World Swimming Championship.
Of course, it’s best known as the home of the Indiana Fever and Indiana Pacers, which moved from its previous home inside Market Square Arena in 1999. Originally the arena was going to be called “Indiana Fieldhouse,” but an Indiana-based insurance company – Conseco (now called CNO Financial) – purchased the naming rights for nearly $40 million, which is helping keep alive the long history of basketball in Indiana.