The Hulman Center opened on Dec. 14, 1973, originally under the name of the Hulman Civic University Center. The center was funded with $2.5 million dollars donated by businessman and philanthropist Tony Hulman. The Hulman family owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until Monday morning, and Clabbar Girl Baking Powder until last year.
From events such as concerts to home shows to various local graduation ceremonies, the Hulman Center has been one of the prominent multipurpose gathering places for the Terre Haute community for 45 years. Its location at the end of campus and right next to Cherry Street, the arena acts as a bridge from campus to downtown Terre Haute.
The Hulman Center contains roughly 174,000 square feet and seats 10,200 people. It has hosted all the men’s and women’s basketball home games for Indiana State University, in addition to concerts, graduation ceremonies, shows and community events. Some key highlights from its history include holding concerts for entertainment legends such as John Denver, Elvis Presley, Johnny Carson and Frank Sinatra.
From a sporting event perspective outside of Indiana State basketball games, the Hulman Center has hosted the 1974 NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Midwest Regional and the 1979 Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball championship game, in which the Sycamores defeated New Mexico State with the help of ISU and NBA legend Larry Bird (1976-1979). Bird’s number 33 hangs from the rafters, never to be worn again by any Sycamore. Other retired numbers hanging from the Hulman Center ceiling include number 22 Carl Nicks (1976-1980) and number 54 Duane Klueh (1946-1949).
As it stands currently, most of the building finishes, exterior façade and building systems are original to when it opened up in 1973. Over the years, smaller renovations have been completed, but there has not been an overall major renovation to the arena since the current renovations, which are still ongoing.
The renovations will not touch the existing sight lines for various events, as they will be maintained. The current project renovations are however working to update the exterior and interior finishes. These renovations will improve the building utility, functionality, access and experience for all types of events that the center may hold.
Women’s Head Basketball Coach Vicki Hall is excited about the changes. “We’re really excited that the Hulman Center is getting renovated. So, of course, it’s going to affect us because we don’t get to play at home and we don’t get to practice there as much, but in the long haul and the big picture, it’s great for Terre Haute and it’s great for Indiana State, so we’ll do what we have to.”
Men’s Head Basketball Coach Greg Lansing agreed. “It’s going to be great. It’s just something to where our program and our fans have to be patient with this because any time you’re putting $50 million into a facility, you want to fast forward and get to the end result. It’s going to be state of the art when it is, but until then it’s growing pains. It’s much needed and everyone is going to have to deal with it. There’s going to be some inconveniences for all of it, but it’s progress.”
One key aspect that the building is looking to address is vertical access, so a new and larger freight elevator will be added to improve efficiency. Customer areas such as the concessions, restrooms and kitchens will all be new. There will be new openings and visions into the event space to improve the aesthetic of the arena and to create excitement for fans, some of these are already viewable at the renovation’s current state if you look at the arena from Cherry Street. The building’s exterior will also completely be renovated, which you can see the beginnings of this as the staff is currently working on renovating the outside walls. Lastly, the look to update the mechanical and electrical systems, and updating safety systems for fire suppression.
Exciting times are coming for the residents and students of Terre Haute with this newly renovated arena, but fans will have to be patient with the changes as the project will not be completed until late 2020.