The Paoli Gym - Paoli Rams
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Paoli High School Gymnasium 501 Elm St Paoli, IN 47454
Year Opened: 1967
The Purple Pride of Paoli
The Paoli Community High School Gymnasium looks much newer than its actual age. The facility was built in 1967 and appears to be in pretty good shape from an aesthetic standpoint. The bright colors of purple and gold stand out against the white ceiling and wood bleachers. The lighting is bright among the 72 units that hover above the court and giant letters spelling out PAOLI RAMS add a definite boldness to its character.
The seating capacity is 4,200 and ranks 48th among the state of Indiana high school gyms. It is big enough to host sectional and regional games that bring near-capacity crowds annually and resides in an area of southern Indiana that is in the center of various tourist destinations. The basketball program has captured 7 regional and 23 sectional championships, plus three straight trips to the Final Four from 1998 to 2000, losing the Class AA championship game in 1999.
Its size was determined as a direct result of its rivalry with Bedford High School. At the time Bedford had the biggest gym in the area and hosted highly lucrative sectional and regional games every February and March. The Paoli school board grasping an opportunity to bring a little status to its facility placed all of its building funds into the construction of a gym that seated 400 more spectators than Bedford’s. The payoff worked out well, the next school year Paoli became host to a sectional round of its own.
Food & Beverage 3
The gym offers a unique design that provides a massive area for its concession stand behind a collapsible wall at one end of the court. The lines do get long for heavily attended contests, but there is enough room to make sure everyone goes through the lines quickly and efficiently.
The products served are the usual hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, pretzels, and candy – the basic food groups of Indiana high school gyms and fieldhouses. Pickles and sloppy joe sandwiches are offered as well and you can get that sauce topped on both hot dogs and nachos for an additional fee. Coca-Cola products are served by the bottle for $2. After the game, free small bags of popcorn are put out for the taking by anyone still lingering around the gym.
The gymnasium features pull-out wooden bleachers on the floor at opposite ends with permanent bleachers on the upper level of the gym. There is also a small section of bleachers above the court at one end of the floor.
The vibrant school colors of purple and gold are nicely decorated throughout the building from its walls, floors, and ceilings. A primary example is the roof is painted white and features purple painted piping that meets at a point in the center of its roof. Before the color change, the roof was a gunpowder gray, adding little life to the gymnasium.
The colors of purple and gold stand out at many points in the gym: seating, championship banners, center court logo, walls, and the collapsible wall that is striped with the school’s colors. The court is named after a long-time PCHS principal James Babcock in 2018. A great way to honor a man who served the school for 23 years.
Paoli is a small town that offers quite a bit to do within 10 miles of the high school. The town is two hours south of Indianapolis and one hour south of Bloomington on US-37. It is an hour northwest of Louisville on US-150, both routes are not interstates, but parts of the roads are two lanes for most of the trip.
During the winter check out Paoli Peaks, The snow-making system allows the resort to make 12 inches of snow in one night over the entire 65 skiable acres.
French Lick Springs Hotel was built in 1845 and offers family-friendly activities and facilities for an ideal weekend destination. The dome-shaped hotel has something everyone can enjoy; whether it’s golf, spa, hiking, gambling, biking, swimming, or shopping.
Other activities in French Link-West Baden include mini-golf, a brewery and winery, scenic railway, trolley rides, indoor karts, and a selection of restaurants including Ohana Hawaiian Grill & Bar, just off the Brick Pizza, and Crazy Horse Ranch. Porky’s BBQ in Paoli is a nice spot that serves pulled pork, brisket, and rib platters along with fried jalapeno appetizers.
When regionals and sectional games are played, the fan atmosphere is amazing with each layup, bucket, and three-pointer cheered with emotional passion and boisterous cheer from the fans in the audience. The student sections themselves make their presence felt with a strong sense of unison, organized cheers, and chants.
The gym is easy to get around with two levels of seating, an open area to the concessions and bathrooms, and ample parking lots that surround the entire building. Unfortunately, when leaving after a heavily packed game, cars move at a snail’s pace from the school to the main street. However, there are some side streets to help you get out a bit quicker.
Return on Investment 4
The PCHS Gym provides a lot of bang for its buck with low-cost concession stand prices, plenty of room in the stands and parking, and a well-kept facility. If you are in town for the weekend and want to take in some gambling, golfing, and skiing, you are only a short 10-15 minute drive from the high school.
One point for the well-kept gymnasium; the colors of purple and gold pop throughout the facility and it looks much newer than its actual age. The original court is due for replacement after the current season and that should blend nicely with its surroundings.
An additional point for the giant concession area that opens up behind the west side of the court. It also provides more room to watch the game for spectators almost directly behind the basket. It’s also a great place for the little ones to run around for a bit to release some energy. A third point for the ram's head hangs up high over the court between the school’s numerous banners.
There are many great gymnasiums in southern Indiana and Paoli has one heck of a gym to watch basketball. Sectional and regional games pack large crowds and it’s one of the cleanest, most modern, and freshest venues in the state. When you add the local entertainment in nearby French Lick and West Baden resorts, it makes for an ideal time for families and romantic getaways.