Renaldo Thomas looked around the Hammond Civic Center on Tuesday night and was impressed, an hour before his Roosevelt Panthers played Griffith in the Class 3A Hammond Sectional.
The upgrades to the classic old gymnasium on Sohl Avenue were impressive this past week as it hosted its first sectional since 2005, ending with Lew Wallace beating Hammond in Saturday night's championship game.
"It reminds me of Memorial Auditorium," Thomas said. "It looks great."
The new floor, locker rooms and scoreboard impressed most of the participants at the 3A sectional last week.
"This place is awesome," Griffith coach Gary Hayes said before his team beat Roosevelt. "I'm an old Hammond guy and I remember the history, all the great teams and players who played here. Kids today don't seem to care about history.
"I made sure our guys knew that it's an honor to play here."
The excitement about the upgraded facility had many administrators looking to the future as regional week of the IHSAA boys basketball tournament begins. Many area athletic directors are hoping the IHSAA takes a good look at the Civic Center for next year's 3A regional.
"We would love to have a regional here," Civic Center building manager Sue Carroll told The Times on Friday night. "We've seen a very strong interest to have it here. The coaches participating in the sectional here have been very pleased.
"It's been great to have sectional basketball here."
Carroll pointed out that the upper deck holds 3,000 and, with bleachers, 4,500 fans can pack into the historic gym that was built in 1937.
Fans from Northwest Indiana have been asking for a 3A regional to be held in Lake County for more than a decade.
In 2003, Plymouth was given the 3A regional along with hosting the sectional. A good program became great playing the first five games of the tournament on its home floor.
Plymouth reached state twice, winning the 2007 state championship.
Plymouth went 5-0 against Lake County teams on its home floor in the regional from 2006 through 2008.
It ended for two years after the 2009 regional, when a dog was brought into the Plymouth gym when Roosevelt was playing Rochester in the championship game. Gary leaders protested the uncalled-for event and the IHSAA moved the regional to Chesterton in 2010 and Crown Point in 2011.
The regional returned to Plymouth last March. On Saturday, Plymouth will be playing on its home floor against West Lafayette. Andrean and Lew Wallace will play in the second semifinal.
"At the very least they should rotate it," said Hammond athletic director Larry Moore, who administrated last week's sectional. "Our kids should be able to sleep in their own beds and not eat out of a bag every other year.
"I got nothing but compliments over the way we handled our sectional. The facility is in great shape and the city is working hard to get high school basketball back in the Civic Center. I think the time is right."
Snow kept the crowds down last week, Moore said. There were approximately 600 in attendance Tuesday, just under 2,000 Friday and a much poorer crowd on Saturday night. Moore said he did not have all the numbers finalized on Sunday afternoon.
The athletic directors will make proposals for next school year's regional sites in the coming months and the IHSAA will make the final decision.
Lake County's history of hosting postseason games changed this year when a girls basketball semistate was held in Crown Point.