Preservation Month: Historic Scholastic Gymnasiums 

INDIANA – Indiana’s fascination with basketball goes back almost to its invention in 1892. The sport significantly grew in popularity between 1911 and 1937, when the number of teams in the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s state tournament expanded from 12 to more than 800, rising to what is known as “Hoosier Hysteria.”

Over time, gymnasiums grew to accommodate large crowds for tournament games. Early gymnasiums were often connected to the original school building and featured little space for spectator seating. Eventually, gymnasiums were constructed as stand-alone buildings, providing ample room for spectators.

“It’s Cheaper to Dig than to Build”: Ralph Legeman’s Sunken Gyms 

Evansville-based architect Ralph Legeman pioneered gym construction with his patented design of a ‘sunken gym’ that allowed ample space with unobstructed views and efficient use of materials at a cost savings for construction. More than 27 Legeman-style gyms are found in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

Read more about his unique design and how it revolutionized basketball spectating in Indiana. Some of the largest basketball gyms in the country are located in Indiana and across the state. Many remain standing as a physical representation of Indiana’s beloved sport.

For more information about Indiana’s historic gymnasiums, follow the DHPA Facebook page as we celebrate Indiana Historic Preservation Month. To request a copy of this year’s poster (while supplies last), contact

Information: Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology.