Original Mackey Arena floor is focal point of Purdue fan’s basement setup
Don Hunt was a high school sophomore when a childhood friend and his dad invited Hunt to accompany them to the 1996 Purdue-Michigan football game at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Hunt was already a Purdue fan by then, but when the underdog Boilermakers shocked the ninth-ranked Wolverines 9-3 that wintry November afternoon, Hunt’s fandom rocketed into a different stratosphere. He became a super fan.
“Everybody rushed the field, and I was hooked, man,” Hunt recalls. “Beating Michigan doesn’t happen often. I remember the students tore down the goal post and took it out of Ross-Ade. It was awesome.”
Hunt still has the ticket stub from that game, part of an ever-expanding collection of mementos that is filling up his Purdue fan-cave basement, nicknamed “The Boiler Room,” and is spilling over into the office of his home in Crown Point, Indiana.
And like that ticket stub, many of these items come with stories that make them especially meaningful to Hunt (BA history ’04).
A self-described basketball junkie, Hunt has a favorite item: a 4-by-8-foot section of the original floor from Purdue’s Mackey Arena that he found on Craigslist and was located in a Kokomo shoe store that was going out of business.
“I thought, ‘I’ve gotta have that.’ I think he wanted $300 for it, and I didn’t care,” Hunt says. “You couldn’t touch something like it for that now. You’ll see placards now that are like a 6-inch-by-6-inch section of the floor and they’re selling for like $100.”
Hunt and a Boilermaker buddy turned that section of Mackey floor into the face of his basement bar, which is complemented by a back-bar shelf constructed from a section of original Mackey bleachers that Hunt bought directly from Purdue when the university renovated the arena a decade ago.
The bar is definitely my prized possession. The (Mackey Arena) court is really important to me — something that not a lot of people have.Don Hunt
BA history ’04
“The bar is definitely my prized possession. The court is really important to me — something that not a lot of people have,” Hunt says. “And I did fasten the Mackey floor to it in a way that I could take it if I ever moved. That was certainly part of the planning: that I’d be able to unscrew a few screws, pull my floor off and put something else there to make it look decent. Because if I move, that’s coming with me.”
Hunt also has an impressive collection of Boilermaker icons’ jerseys, many of which are autographed and framed on his basement wall. There’s Mike Alstott, one of his childhood favorites, alongside fellow football luminaries like Bob Griese, Kyle Orton, Rondale Moore and a single frame featuring the autographed basketball jerseys of Boilermaker teammates Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson.
Then there are the autographed jerseys of the two biggest Purdue sports stars of the modern era: Drew Brees and Glenn Robinson. Hunt has a story about how he managed to meet those icons, too.
Hunt was a Boilermaker freshman living in Hilltop Apartments when he looked out the window and spotted Brees walking toward the Mollenkopf Athletic Center. Hunt quickly rushed out to track down the Boilermakers’ star quarterback.
“I got on my bicycle, rode over there and met him at the entrance,” Hunt says. “It was just me and him. I said, ‘Hey, could I get your autograph?’ and he signed it for me.”
To get the Robinson autograph, Hunt admits he might have committed a mild security breach a few years ago when he followed Robinson into the tunnel at Mackey. There, the 1994 national player of the year and No. 1 overall NBA draft pick was chatting with another Purdue basketball great, Brian Cardinal.
“I had my gold Glenn Robinson jersey that I’d had since I was a kid on underneath my sweatshirt,” Hunt says. “I just walked up to Glenn while he’s standing there with Brian Cardinal and said, ‘Hey Glenn, will you sign my jersey?’ And I just literally lifted up my shirt, and he signed it. The signature’s not great. Brian Cardinal was laughing and said, ‘I’ve never seen a grown man sign another grown man’s jersey.’”
But what would a Purdue hoops junkie’s autograph collection be without a signature from the Big Dog himself? Sometimes super fans must go to great lengths to meet one of their childhood heroes.
We’re a Purdue family for sure.
Don Hunt BA history ’04
And make no mistake, Hunt’s fandom certainly rises to that level.
His son Austin? Named for former Boilermaker guard Chad Austin, who buried the game-winning shots to beat Indiana in 1996 and 1997. His dog Mackey? You can probably guess the inspiration behind the chocolate Lab’s name.
“We’re a Purdue family for sure,” Hunt says.
As for what’s next in the Boiler Room, Hunt is like most fan-cave proprietors in that he always has a creative idea or two percolating.
He keeps a newer section of Mackey flooring in his garage but has not yet decided how he’ll put it to good use. He’s thought about turning it into a clock. Maybe it will become an end table.
And he already has plans in the works for when — not if, when — Matt Painter and his players bring home a long-awaited basketball national championship. When that day comes, Hunt plans to build a trophy case into his basement wall that will display a replica of the Boilermakers’ national championship trophy.
While he awaits that glorious moment, Hunt will camp out in front of the three TVs mounted to his basement wall (which is also adorned with opponents’ mini football helmets ordered to display Purdue’s football schedule), obsess over the gold and black and welcome friends into his Boilermaker haven.
“A good fan cave has got to have a place to watch sports,” Hunt says. “You’ve got to have a good place to socialize, like a bar or some other place to hang out. And you’ve got to have a comfy seat. Mine says that I like to have a good time and watch the Boilers.”