New arena brings Hollywood movie magic to Middie fans

It only looked like basketball games but this weekend’s celebrations commemorating the closing of one historic Middletown schools’ gym and the opening of another were so much more.

The Friday evening final game in the old Wade E. Miller Gym in the city’s former high school building — now middle school that will close at the end of the school year — was an all-star, all-community send off to the historic home of the great Middletown Middie basketball champs.

And the all-day Saturday games — boys and girls basketball — at the new Wade E. Miller Arena on the campus of a transforming Middletown High School and middle school were a celebration of a new chapter in the iconic sports program’s bright future.

It was a revival of the famed Middie Magic that has meant so much to so many during more than six decades.

Fans accustomed to watching games in Miller Gym, named after a former Middletown City Schools superintendent, will see the technological advancements made in the last 65 years. Miller Arena features two professional-style baskets on Jerry Lucas Court, four 9-foot by 12-foot LED scoreboards, bright lights, a high-quality sound system, a walking track, a wrestling room, a strength center, athletic offices, trophy cases and an attached community room.

“All the bells and whistles,” Middletown High School Athletic Director Aaron Zupka said.

Miller Arena is just part of the improvements and building taking place on Breiel Boulevard. Middletown High School, which opened in 1969, has been renovated as part of a $96 million project that includes a new Middletown Middle School being built next to the high school.

Though the boys varsity teams lost on consecutive nights, the thousands of fans who came to cheer their beloved Middies’ basketball history marked it all down as a win.

It’s because the two days of events, which included the return of beloved hometown sports hero and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas, were about much more than just basketball, said the leader of Middletown Schools.

“This is about Middie pride at its ultimate finest. You talk about history and rich tradition in Middletown school district and our city and you get to see it tonight,” said Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. “This is about a city coming together for our students.

“There is a sense of pride that we are coming together as one Middletown.

“We thank everyone who came out to the two nights and we thank everyone who came back,” to the city school system that binds Middletown closer, Styles said.

(Staff Writer Rick McCrabb contributed to this story)