The Eel Dome - Clay City Eels
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
The Eel Dome 601 Lankford St Clay City, IN 47841
Clay City High School website The Eel Dome website
Year Opened: 1956 Capacity: 3,000
Clay City's Eeel Dome
The Eel Dome in Clay City, Indiana, might be one of the top-name gyms in the country. The home of the Clay City High School Eels has produced many memories from sectional tournament play and championship-winning teams from the mid-1970s. Recently, it received much-needed renovations to spruce the old place up for future generations.
The gym was dedicated on July 9, 1956, and cost the district $500,000. The 2,300-seat sunken gym was designed by Ralph Legeman and replaced the old gym that had been constructed in 1921. Its first game was on November 2, 1956, against Staunton High School, in which the Eels lost 56-32 in front of a capacity crowd.
The boys’ basketball team has captured 10 out of 12 sectional championships at the gym, plus 3 regional titles, including the 1974 team that went 25-1 before falling to Jeffersonville in front of 12,300 fans at Roberts Stadium in Evansville in the semi-state finals. The girls’ program has captured three sectional tournament titles.
In 2018, both the Eel Dome and the high school went through a major renovation. The project was completed at $32,000,000 without raising local taxes. The new features at the gym were a wrap-around concourse, new locker rooms for both athletes and PE classes, a training room, a weight room, and public restrooms.
The following year, a new basketball court was installed during the summer of 2019. It replaced the original floor that had been installed 64 years earlier. Sections of the floor were made available for purchase to the public through the school. The sections are still available and cost as little as $10 to as high as $100.
Food & Beverage 3
Two separate concession stands inside the gymnasium offer a rather standard fare of menu items. Unfortunately, they were closed during our visit due to COVID-19 and it appeared that fans were allowed to bring in their pre-packaged items and drinks. The menu items included hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, candy, and pop. A hot dog is rather affordable at $1.50, one of the cheapest in the state. The concession items are within the average range of many other gyms in the state, and it might be best to grab a bite to eat before or after the game.
In comparison to other Ralph Legeman-designed gyms, this place feels much newer than other of its contemporaries. The place offers a little natural lighting, LED lights, an updated balcony, fresh colors of purple and silver, and a nice-looking court and center logo.
The one advantage is that the building once featured windows on both sides that are not frosted over to prevent sunlight from causing trouble with shooting on the court. The windows still provided a little natural lighting along with updated LED lighting up above the court and seating bowl.
The seating bowl is painted silver with purple bleacher seating, purple coloring is along the baseline on the concourse, and banners welcoming fans to “THE EEL DOME” hang on both sides of the gymnasium. The balcony area is set up for the media and provides a birds-eye view of the court at one end. Before its construction, a stage was located on the court level.
All of the boys’ and girls’ basketball championship banners are hung together above the balcony for proper viewing from the stand. This area features the new wrap-around section of the gym that offers four large windowless openings for a unique view of the game on the court. The center court logo is painted with an interlocking CC with a lifelike interpretation of an eel. There is also another logo that mimics the Golden State “City” logo that is placed in certain parts of the dome.
Clay City is a small town but features two spots worthy of visiting when in town. Glory Days is a bar and restaurant that is known for good food and reasonable prices. There is a bar area where one can grab a bite and a restaurant portion in the front of the building featuring nostalgic photos from the 1950s and 1960s. However, it is its basketball collection that is the highlight of this establishment.
The main lobby offers a museum-like gallery of Clay City and former high school memorabilia from schedules, newspaper articles, letterman jackets, signage, pieces of gym court, magazine covers, team photographs, and school banners. I wonder if the folks at the Indiana Basketball High School Hall of Fame know about this collection. There is also a nice area dedicated to former Indiana State Sycamore Springs Valley High School legend Larry Bird.
The other place to eat is Joe’s Garage BBQ which is designed to look like an old beat-up garage that is about to fall over on itself. Inside, folks can enjoy barbecue ribs, pulled pork, brisket, burgers, and award-winning chicken wings. The sides are also a highlight, and plentiful, and include fried jalapenos, sweet potato casserole, fried okra, and mixed greens. Some specials include a pit beef sandwich and a giant smoked pork chop that Fred Flintstone would approve of on his plate.
Due to COVID-19, there was a limited number of fans allowed into the gymnasium during our visit. I was locked out when I had to go back to my car for a part of my camera. Normally, the places pack them in for both boys' and girls' basketball games during the winter and the gym is going to host boys' sectional games this year. Fortunately, the small crowds can’t take away from the joy of begging a game or the road of the faithful in the stands.
The gym is designed for easy access with one main door entering the building and four doors opening to the parking lot after the game. The city itself is located 13 miles south of I-74 at the Brazil exit. During COVID-related times, the concourse and seating bowl is wide open.
Return on Investment 4
The cost of a ticket is $5 and concession prices are among the cheapest in the state. A hot dog is $1.50 and nachos are $2, one heck of a deal for fans watching a basketball game. Fans also get to enjoy a sharp-looking, and recently renovated gym, plus enjoy a couple of great restaurants in town.
The Eel Dome earns a point for its pristine and sharp look throughout the concourse and seating bowl. Another point is for the recent renovations that included a new court, wrap-around the concourse, and balcony for fans to enjoy. A final point is for the concession pricing.
The Eel Dome is among the best names in all of Indiana high school gyms. It is also a classic sunken gym design that looks a bit more modern and vibrant than many others of its kind. The pricing, atmosphere, location, and local restaurants visiting the gym are an ideal choice during the winter months in Indiana.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunterand his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com