William S. Johnson Arena – Jeffersonville HS Red Devils

by | Mar 1, 2019 | Basketball, High School Basketball, Marc Viquez

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The Home to High School Hoops in Jeffersonville

Jeffersonville High School basketball began in 1906 and in little over a century, the program has won 1,649 games, 34 sectional titles, 16 regional championships, six semistates, and one state title. The list also includes 12 members of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and 11 Indiana All-Stars.

One of those Hall of Famers is William Johnson, who the building is named after, who served as the team captain for two seasons and lead the Demons (as they were also known as at the time) to 31 consecutive victories heading into the 1935 State Championship.

However, mysterious circumstances of that final day of the tournament in which the Devils played three games surrounded their head coach Hunk Francis who was found “in a stupor” in a taxi cab by his players and was incapacitated during the team’s final day of play.  Francis had to prop up on the bench by his players during the first game, many in the audience perplexed by his condition and the fact that he was the only coach on the team.

Johnson took over as player-coach, lead the team to the first two wins of the day, but fell to Anderson High School in the championship game 23-16. It was a disappointed way to end the season for the Devils and Johnson felt that if Francis was simply “dunk” the effects would have worn off by the championship game, it has been reported that his condition didn’t get better until two days later.

Mysterious circumstances surround the coach who later said he was drugged after he left the team’s dinner the night before. The number one theory is that gamblers wanted to prevent Jeffersonville from winning, it is alleged that odds were 12 to 7 against the Devils winning against the favored Anderson team.

The Devils would make it back to the final game in 1974 but it would not be until 1993 that they broke their jinx and finally captured the school’s lone basketball state title at the Hoosier Dome. 

Food & Beverage 3

The main concession stand is located in the main lobby of the building offering many items found at other gyms. Fans can purchase a hot dog, chili and cheese hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, and a dish they call Devil nachos for the prices of $1.50 and $2.50. Guests can wash it all down with a bottle of Coca-Cola or Sweet Tea. 

Atmosphere 3

The gymnasium debuted in 1972 and was renamed in honor of Johnson seven years later. It originally had a capacity of 5,306–one of 31 gyms in the state that seated 5,000 or more–but was trimmed down to around 4,800 after recent renovations that included the WJHI radio station in the upper level.

The seating sections are broken into an upper and lower level, wood on top and red plastic seats on the bottom; the top level offers a wraparound concourse for easy movement and a few nice vantage points from behind the net on both sides. The Red Devil theme is evident from a fire design foul line, a giant J-tailed logo at center court, and four state championship banners hanging from the rafters in one corner of the gym.

The main lobby is large enough to offer a trophy room, ticket offices, a concession stand, and four glass cylinders that display the school’s four state championship titles. There is even a button that plays the final 39 seconds of the 1993 state championship basketball team’s radio broadcast, a very nice touch.

One game worth checking out is against New Albany. The heated rivalry dates back to 1909 and a packed gym is expected when the Bulldogs come to town. The game takes on a college feel with a bolstered student section and pre-game ceremonies that is passionate and engraved in the hearts of many in town. The Jeffersonville/New Albany rivalry is at 160 games as of this writing.

Neighborhood 4

Jeffersonville is located across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, but offers enough dining and entertainment that might keep you in Indiana. Main Street borders the Ohio River and is home to the Big Four Bridge, that is a pedestrian-only crossing that offers a spectacular view of the Louisville skyline and the many barges that pass underneath. There are also markers that detail the history of the bridge that was first constructed in 1895.

Downtown Jeffersonville features shops and restaurants, infused with local traditions and buildings that have been repurposed. Pearl St. Taphouse, Big Four Burgers & Beer, and The Barrelhouse on Market are three top choices. If you are looking for more wallet-friendly places, visit Orange Clover Kitchen or Ann’s By the River. Pearl St. Game & Coffee House pours some of the best coffee in the area, it is ridiculously smooth.

Howard Steamboat Museum & Mansion is a great way to spend an hour or two, or one can simply cross the river into Louisville and explore other great museums, fine restaurants, and plenty of bourbon distilleries and craft breweries. A few miles down the interstate in New Albany is one of the areas best breweries. The New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria & Public House is both a great place for locally brewed beers and homemade pizza.

Fans 3

The Red Devils fans have a long history with their basketball and rivalry games against nearby New Albany High School would be the game you would want to attend during the season. The fan base does its best rooting for their hometown team and when you are in this part of the state, basketball roots run a little deeper.

Access 3

Johnson Arena is a nice-sized facility that is extremely easy to get around. There is plenty of parking located outside of the main entrance and it’s located only a few miles from the I-265. However, one should use their GPS when traveling by car. There are bathrooms on both levels of the facility and seats and exits are clearly marked for fans inside the main gym.

Return on Investment 4

The Johnson Arena is your typical basketball gym from the 1970s and when it is filled, one begins to understand the term Hoosier Hysteria. Ticket prices are $6 and concession prices are less than $2.50. The main lobby offers a nice collection of basketball tradition and plenty of accolades from the various school’s sports teams. Visitors also get to enjoy some quality time along Main Street in downtown Jeffersonville. It’s a very charming city that is nice to visit during the basketball season, but perhaps more appealing during the warmer months of the year.

Extras 2

The Johnson Arena receives a point for the interactive display of the 1993 state championship team. Fans can press a button to hear the final 39 seconds of the radio broadcast from that magical season that resulted in the school’s first state championship after several finishes as runner-up.

The Johnson Arena receives its last point for being located in a very pretty town that offers a lot to do before and after the game. The Main Street area has great restaurants and places to grab a drink and you can also take a nice walk across the Ohio River into Louisville if that strikes your fancy. The Big Four Bridge is also a nice attraction that is a perfect way to get a little walk on a warm day.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to enjoy about watching a basketball game at the William Johnson Arena that includes easy access off the interstate, a charming Main Street, proximity to Louisville, and affordable concession prices. There is a lot of history on display, but easily could be more from a basketball program with over 100 years of operation and various seasons of winning basketball. If you are ever in the area, check to see if the Red Devils are playing a game at the Johnson Arena.

 

 

 

Food and Drink Recommendations

Pearl Street Tap House

407 Pearl Street

Jeffersonville, IN 47119

(812) 283-3009

www.pearlstreettaphouse.com


The Barrel House on Market

1005 W. Market St.

Jeffersonville, IN 47130

(812) 590-7363

https://www.facebook.com/thebarrelhouseonmarket/about


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Entertainment Recommendations

Big Four Bridge

Jeffersonville, IN 47130

(812) 283-0301

https://www.jeffmainstreet.org/downtown-revitalization/big-four-bridge/


Howard Steamboat Museum & Mansion

1101 E Market St

Jeffersonville, IN 47130

(812) 283-3728 

http://www.howardsteamboatmuseum.org/


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Lodging Recommendations

 

Sheraton Louisville Riverside Hotel

700 W Riverside Dr

JeffersonvilleIN 47130

(812) 284-6711

Sheraton Louisville Riverside Hotel


 

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Louisville North

619 Shore Dr.

JeffersonvilleIN 47130

(812) 280-8220

Fairfield Inn & Suites website


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Stadium Info

William S. Johnson Arena
1416 Spring St.
Jeffersonville, IN 47130

Jeffersonville HS Red Devils website

William S. Johnson Arena website

Year Opened: 1972

Capacity: 5,306

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