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Tickets to the '58 Sectional Were Hard to Get
February 13, 2008 - In 1958 the mammoth New Castle Fieldhouse was still in the construction stages, and the sectional was played at the Church Street Gym in New Castle. Knightstown’s ticket allotment for the sectional was 294.
Knightstown needed 300 tickets just to take care of 216 student season ticket holders, 21 varsity parents, 23 junior varsity parents, 21 school officials, and 19 players, coaches and cheerleaders.
That left the 700 Knightstown adult season ticket holders standing outside in the cold. But there was a system in place in 1958 that today would probably appear odd given the circumstances.
The Panther Gymnasium on north Washington Street was sold out for every home game more than a year before the season started, regardless of whether or not the team was expected to be good. There were various reasons for that rush to secure a season ticket.
When the sectional came around, the 700 season ticket holders’ names would be placed into a hat, and 50 or so would be drawn in a type of lottery to see who got sectional tickets. Everyone else was just out of luck unless they could secure a ticket from another school after the team lost their game. Non-season ticket holders had no chance of seeing the team in the sectional.
But that wasn’t the only reason for having a season ticket. In a nutshell, there wasn’t a lot to do in 1958.
“We didn’t have cable TV and you couldn’t just hit the remote and catch North Carolina and Duke playing on Thursday night,” said Doug Reeves, team manager for the 1958 sectional champion Panthers. “There was absolutely no chance of getting to see the sectional unless you were a season ticket holder and were then eligible for the drawing. Of course, in the drawing, you still didn’t have a great chance of getting a ticket.
“It’s probably hard for some people to understand today, but back then the sectional was a week-long event,” Reeves said. “Your team might play twice in one day. The tourney became an event where people would spend the entire day in New Castle, attending several games, going out to eat in between games and socializing. If you didn’t have tickets, you missed the biggest social event of the year regardless of whether or not your team won.”
Officials thought they solved the problem in 1959 when they opened the 81,000 square foot, 9,325-seat New Castle Fieldhouse. That allowed a lot more people to attend the sectional, but the facility sold out every session nonetheless.
Many older fans suggest the problem was ultimately solved by the IHSAA when they changed the tournament to a class basketball format, which resulted in a significant drop in attendance across the state.
Twenty years ago the four-session sectional at New Castle drew over 30,000 in attendance. Today, the sectional Knightstown plays in averages roughly 8,000 in total attendance.
“On any given night you can turn on the television and watch a college or professional game,” Reeves said. “Back then, the thing to do was watch your high school basketball team.”
“The gym was packed for every game, all season long,” said former hoops star Danny Vaughn, who had 19 points and 18 rebounds in the 1958 sectional championship game. “Those were the good old days.”
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