Hinkle Fieldhouse (originally named Butler Fieldhouse) was among the first buildings erected when Butler University moved to the Fairview campus in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1928. Butler Fieldhouse and the Butler Bowl (a 36,000-seat football stadium that has since been downsized and renamed the Bud and Jackie Sellick Bowl) were promoted by a corporation of 41 Indianapolis businessmen who viewed them as a benefit to the city as well as Butler. When Butler signed a lease with the Indiana High School Athletic Association to host the championship games of the state's high school basketball tournament, the corporation agreed to finance the construction project at a cost of $1 million.
Designed by Indianapolis architect Fermor Spencer Cannon, construction began on the basketball arena at 49th Street and Boulevard Place on the northeast edge of Butler's campus in fall of 1927. When completed in early 1928, it was the largest basketball arena in the United States, a distinction it retained until 1950, and is the sixth-oldest college basketball arena still in use. Called Butler Fieldhouse from 1928 to 1966, it was renamed Hinkle Fieldhouse in honor of Butler's longtime coach and athletic director, Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle. The arena's design included a steel truss system that provides spectators with unobstructed views of the basketball court, an initial seating capacity of more than 15,000, and a fireproof brick and stone exterior. The innovative technology for its time served as the inspiration for other basketball arenas. Hinkle Fieldhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 22, 1983, and designated a National Historic Landmark on February 27, 1987, and has been in use for nine decades.
Although Hinkle Fieldhouse has hosted other events, it is best known as a basketball venue in a state that is well known for its enthusiasm for the game (often referred to as "Hoosier Hysteria"). In addition to serving as the home court for the Butler Bulldogs men's basketball team, Butler hosted the Indiana high school tournament's championship games from 1928 to 1971 (except for 1943 to 1945, when the arena was converted to a military barracks to house U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Navy recruits during World War II. The state high school championship games returned to the Butler Fieldhouse in 1946 and remained there until 1972, when the Indiana High School Athletic Association moved the state basketball tournament's championship games to Indiana University's Assembly Hall in Bloomington, and later to other venues in the state.
In November 1965, Butler University's board of trustees voted in favor of renaming the basketball facility Hinkle Fieldhouse to honor Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle, a former three-sport coach and athletic director at Butler. Hinkle, who came to Butler as an assistant basketball coach in 1921, was named its head basketball coach in 1926. Hinkle served as head coach of the Butler men's basketball, baseball, and football teams from 1934 to 1970. He was also Butler's athletic director.
On December 22, 1983, Hinkle Fieldhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a National Historic Landmark on February 27, 1987, in recognition of its role in transforming college basketball into a popular spectator sport in the 1920s and 1930s. Hinkle Fieldhouse is one of only a few early 20th-century sports arenas still in use in the United States, and among the best-preserved of its kind. Brad Stevens, the former Butler basketball coach who became head coach of Boston Celtics, once remarked that Hinkle Fieldhouse is "not for everybody," but continued, "But it is for somebody that appreciates tradition, somebody that appreciates history." In 2006, to celebrate Butler University's 150th anniversary, a documentary about Hinkle Fieldhouse entitled Indiana's Basketball Cathedral aired on ESPN. More recently, a $36.2 million renovation and restoration project was completed in 2014. The 2015–2016 basketball season was the first full season in the upgraded facility. The Butler Bulldogs continue to play in the oldest facility in NCAA Division I basketball.