—-The basketball arena at Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Illinois, known as “The Frank”, bears more of resemblance to an airport hanger than 95% of the high school gyms in the state, Dec. 2021. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

When Civic Pride & Design Mattered

Bloomington High School’s Robert Frank Sports Complex, commonly referred to as “The Frank”, is a holdover from the days when civic pride was often behind the design of the local high school’s gyms & football fields.

The Frank is the rare high school venue that has an interior and exterior aesthetic to it. The gentle curvature of the roof beams, that extend outside the building, to the curved floor to ceiling glass windows that line the north side of the facility, letting in natural light, but never direct sunlight. There’s even a beautiful symmetry between the conference championship banners and local sponsorship banners.

Bloomington High School’s Robert Frank Sports Complex, is as stunning to look at as it is functional, 1950s civic pride in full display. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)
Natural light entering the arena can create a very unique light during a game. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson)
A frosted glass wall on the south side of The Frank lets in some natural light, but not too much. Conference championship banners and sponsor banners mirror each other in a way that it’s not as tacky as it is in some gyms. (photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

This A Sports Arena, Not A Gym

There are few high school basketball courts in the state, or the country for that matter, that calling them a gym would be a disservice. The Frank truly deserves to be called a sports arena. Built in 1959 the building has a slight arch, with 10 large-metal I beams the protrude from the east & west sides of the building creating a sloping cantilever overhang.

The exterior of the Robert Frank Sports Complex at Bloomington High School, Illinois has a low profile as a majority of the seating and all of the court are below ground level. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

With the playing surface below ground, all fans enter at ground level and head directly to seating in the upper section, or make their way down stairs at all four corners of the floor so they can sit court-side. A sliding wall is hidden away towards the south end of the main level. Both west and east sides can be turned into separate playing areas when the bleachers are retracted against the wall.

Stairs at all four corners of the arena lead to the court-side seating areas.
It wouldn’t make sense for a regulation game, but with the main level walls closed and bleachers retracted, warmups or practices could happen simultaneously with a game at The Frank. For the State Farm Classic basketball tournament one side was used as the hospitality room for officials, volunteers, & media.
Trophy cases and a purple 8 foot wall are what greats you when you enter The Frank. That wall blocks out a view of the court so people don’t crowd the entrance area, but also is short enough to let in a lot of light from the wall of windows on the north side.
Trophy cases and a purple 8 foot wall are what greats you when you enter The Frank. That wall blocks out a view of the court so people don’t crowd the entrance area, but also is short enough to let in a lot of light from the wall of windows on the north side.
The Robert Frank Sports Complex at Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Illinois, also known as “The Frank”.
First round girls basketball action between Rochester and Washington during The State Farm Classic at The Frank, Dec. 2021.
First round girls basketball action between Rochester and Washington during The State Farm Classic at The Frank, Dec. 2021.

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