A Community Treasure

The Hoosier Gym located in Knightstown, Indiana is famous for being the home of the Hickory Huskers in the 1986 movie “Hoosiers.” It is a movie that tells the story of Indiana high school basketball through the trials and tribulations of a small school. To a young basketball crazed boy growing up in Knightstown in the 80s, the movie was a huge deal. I was in the fourth grade at the time the movie was filmed. I attended school in the old Academy building and we used the gym for PE class, sock hops, and our weekend Optimist basketball league. To us, the gym was just an old, run down place for school. To those making the movie, it was exactly what they needed to tell the story. I had the opportunity to be an extra during a few scenes in the film. We wore our 50s garb to school during the day and stayed after school to be movie stars in the evening. I actually had a chance to meet Gene Hackman as we both received haircuts in one of the school classrooms. The movie created so many memories for me, my family, and the Knightstown community. In my eyes, it will always be the greatest movie ever made.

The Hoosier Gym is more than a movie icon that is visited by thousands of people every year. It also serves as a community center for the people of Knightstown. Wedding receptions, graduation open houses, dances, chili suppers, and even church sermons have been held inside this historic venue. The Hoosier Gym is a treasure for the Knightstown community and the community has rallied around this building since its construction in 1922.

We were excited to participate as volunteers for the 6th annual Hoosier Reunion All-Star Classic. This event consists of two high school basketball games showcasing the best boys and girls players in the state. It is the largest fundraising event that The Hoosier Gym holds each year which makes the success of the event very important. I know my face lights up when I enter the gym. It is such a special place and it is one of my most favorite places in the world. When we entered Friday night, the “Hoosiers” soundtrack pumped through the sound system and the sound of balls bouncing was evident. I had chills followed by goose bumps and a feeling of exhilaration. I was very happy to be “home”. We spent the evening at the front door taking tickets. The event was sold out and there was no room in the little gym for those without a ticket. It was also our responsibility to welcome all attendees with the hospitality that runs rampant within the community of Knightstown. I really enjoyed watching people as they entered the gym for the first time. They smiled in amazement at the photos and memorabilia in the front lobby. They were amazed at the actual size of the gym as they entered to find their seats. The event was a success. The players who participated in the games enjoyed their time playing on the historic basketball floor. Those that attended enjoyed the atmosphere and excitement that surrounded the games. As for these volunteers, we were grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with the people of The Hoosier Gym.

We recommend that everyone visit The Hoosier Gym at some point. You can spend time in the locker room where Coach Norm Dale gave his inspirational speeches. You can grab a seat in the bleachers and relive the excitement of a Hickory Husker ballgame. You can even grab a ball and hit a game winning jump shot after running the famed picket fence. You can do all of this at no cost while supporting a venue that truly is a cherished community treasure. Oh yeah, and “don’t get caught watching the paint dry.”

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