Butler women's basketball holds first team event at Bicentennial Unity Plaza
Monday marked the start of the college basketball season and one program held a team event on the court at the plaza.
Butler women’s basketball coach Austin Parkinson had an idea.
He’s an Indiana kid, played at Purdue University and is now coaching nearby at one of the great basketball home courts in the country at Hinkle Fieldhouse. He saw how Bicentennial Unity Plaza opened outside Gainbridge Fieldhouse one month ago when his Butler team attended an Indiana Fever game.
And then his childhood came racing back.
“Nothing was better as a kid than playing outdoor basketball,” he said.
Parkinson brought the idea to Pacers Sports & Entertainment for his women’s basketball program to use the court for a team event — and they got it done.
“I hadn’t seen anyone do it so I thought it would be special to be the first,” he added.
Monday was a big day for college basketball programs across the country because it marked the official start of practice. (The Pacers begin practice in one week.)
And so the Butler women’s program held a competitive practice in the morning at Butler, then made the six-mile drive down to the plaza to get more work in on the regulation size outdoor court in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.
Butler athletic director Barry Collier was on hand for the event.
Parkinson isn’t just from the state, he also coached the IUPUI women’s basketball program for 12 years — into a 20-win team and perennial Horizon League power — and he’s now entering his second season at the helm of the Butler program. His staff is filled with Indiana natives too.
“I grew up playing outdoors, this is all we did,” he said. “So when I saw that it was covered, I thought how cool would it be to go down there to kick off the season. What a neat thing the Pacers and Fever have done with the plaza.”
Having it covered is very important. It was 83 and sunny on this day so the team mostly kept to the east end of the court. Without it, something like this wouldn’t have made sense.
Afterward, players visited with those who came by to watch or had stopped to see what was going on. And they shared flyers with the team’s home schedule. Smart thinking.
As for the space, this adds some legitimacy to it with the fact that a Big East college program spent 90 minutes training on this court that is open to the public.
There will be live music, Pacers pregame festivities and more events to come. But this basketball event showed off its possibilities while providing a unique experience for one local program.