Bison Dome – Benton Central Bison
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.58
Bison Dome 4241 E 300 S. Oxford, IN 47971
Year Opened: 1969
Benton Central; A Sneaky Good Basketball Dome
Benton Central Jr-Sr High School opened for the 1968-1969 academic school year as a result of the consolidation of Ambia, Boswell, Earl Park, Fowler, Freeland Park, Montmorenci, Pine Township, Oxford, Otterbein, and Wadena Schools. However, its dome basketball gymnasium wouldn’t be ready until the 1969-1970 season.
The Arena Dome, or what I like to call the Bison Dome, held a capacity of 4,000 plus when it opened for the Bison but renovations have reduced the number to 3,538 — good enough for the 90th largest gymnasium in the state of Indiana and large enough to top many other facilities of its kind in the 49 other states in the country. The dome roof and ceiling are the gym’s main focal point and its design is similar to the Raider Dome at Southern Wells High School.
Something is interesting about the dome basketball gymnasium and this arena stands out in the small town of Oxford, Indiana, just 30 miles west of Lafayette on SR-52. The gym is what some of us say as being “sneaky good” and there has been a lot of good basketball played here as the boys have captured 15 sectional and 4 regional championships while the girls’ program has won 21 sectional, 11 regional, and 4 semi-state championships along with three appearances in the title game.
Food & Beverage 5
There is a lot to enjoy at the concession stand during the game and the selection is so abundant that the Bison became the first high school venue to receive a perfect score. Perhaps it is due to not many restaurants near the school but fans get more than the usual snack foods of hot dogs and popcorn when taking in a game underneath the dome.
The gym offers tenderloin sandwiches, coney dogs from Dog and Suds, spicy chicken sandwiches, barbecue sandwiches, chicken strips, and a Bison dog (cheese and barbecue). There are French fries that are covered with chili, barbecue, or cheese. The same adheres to nachos that are also topped with barbecue.
For dessert, there is a concession stand on the upper level that sells freshly baked cookies that are two for a dollar. All of these items are offered in $5 combos complete with fries and a 32-ounce Coca-Cola fountain product. There were even a few more items that were blocked off the menu list.
The Bison Dome is a visual treat the moment you walk inside its spacious confines and are treated to the classical style gym of its era complete with fresh green and gold paint all over the building. It is a wonder why this gym is not talked about more by the legions of high school fans here in Indiana.
The building features one side slightly larger than the other. There is seating on all four sides of the court on both levels and banners from the various school championship teams hang from the rafters. The bottom-level seating features photographs of a few championship-winning sides.
The highlight and focal point is the large dome roof that begins its second century of use in 2020. It looks as sharp as it did when it first opened and a touch of fresh paint in 2018 accented the gym’s aesthetics. A framed picture of a bison is hung on the upper-level wall along with a few old-school-looking logos along with the top level.
The atrium features trophy cases, a concession stand, ticket booths, and a selection of tables where fans can enjoy their meal before the game or during halftime. The area is modern and was constructed in the late 1970s but features nice stone walls with shades of gray and black.
South Benton is located in Oxford, Indiana, near the town of Fowler which is exactly 100 miles between Chicago and Indianapolis. To say that the school is in the middle of nowhere is an understatement, the school is located next to a series of solar power windmills that stretch well past I-65 several miles east of campus.
The area is home to a few local places that are recommended before a game. The local establishments include 100 Mile Rib & Chop House and Local Bar in Fowler and Dan Patch Cafe just south in Oxford.
The 100 Mile Rib & Chop House features a full-service bar and a separate restaurant offering Angus steaks, ribs, and bone-in pork chops. There is also a home-style menu option for $8.95, weeknight dinner specials, and burgers and sandwiches.
RDM Shrimp Farm offers tours of its sustainable shrimp that are raised on-site. Visitors can visit the premise which includes a gift shop and store to purchase shrimp and other products. The Fowler Theater is a 1940s movie theater that shows $6 films in its Art-Deco interior that takes visitors back in time.
Lafayette and Purdue University are about 30 miles southeast of the school providing a wealth of restaurants, breweries, and other sights when taking in a game.
To be honest, many of the Bison faithful were planning on heading to see the ladies in the semi-state game the next night in LaPorte, Indiana (a few hours north of town). However, the ones who were at their game showed school spirit with various t-shirt designs in the school colors. The light crowd was spirited throughout tonight’s contest and cheered on their hometown boys.
The gym is located 30 miles away from Lafayette, Indiana along State Road 52. It’s somewhat off the beaten path but not that far enough that one cannot make a simple trip to enjoy basketball at a truly interesting little gymnasium. Once inside the building, the design of the facility makes it easy to circumnavigate the seating bowl to get to your seat and access the bathroom and concession stands. The crowds are never near or at capacity so you have plenty of access to and about during your game.
Return on Investment 4
The price of a ticket is $5 for a basketball game and is on par with other gymnasiums in the state. Concession items are also fairly affordable with no menu item being more than $3. There is plenty of parking that is free for the game and the small-town atmosphere makes it highly enjoyable to attend the game at a sneaky good basketball facility here in Hoosier State.
The Dome earns a point for its dome architect ceiling and roof–the focal point during a basketball game. There is quite the collegiate feel when watching a game here that is reminiscent of a smaller version of the Mackey Arena at nearby Purdue University.
The Dome earns another point for its wide variety of concession items from spicy chicken sandwiches, to Coney, and two freshly baked cookies. They go above and beyond with their food selection. Fans can even enjoy fountain beverages in 16 and 32-ounce cups.
The third point is the look of the gym itself from its interior. The colors of green and gold are everywhere from photographs, paintings, and wall art. The curved glass banister also adds a nice little touch to the gymnasium that has a look all its own.
The Dome gets a fourth point for the solar windmills that dot the landscape and provide a distinctive backdrop to the school and campus. There are 414 of them located on the Meadow Lake Wind Farm.
The arena gym is not as celebrated as other facilities in the state but one should never overlook this charming and distinctive building set aside the farmlands and solar power mills of Benton County. It is somewhat off the beaten path but not too far to enjoy high school basketball in the state of Indiana. It is a gorgeous facility with plenty of nice touches and concession items. Sometimes, the best places take a bit of drive to get to but are definitely worth the effort.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at email@example.com