IRONTON, OH (WOWK) – St. Joseph Central Catholic High School continues to be one of the smallest schools in the state of Ohio that offers varsity sports. But it hasn’t always had the necessary facilities to hold games or events.
Aside from the auxiliary gym at Ironton High School, the Flyers of St. Joseph had been practicing in the ‘Flyer Dome,’ the small basketball court inside the high school that, while filled with history and tradition, was not a regulation-sized court.
“The court isn’t even, like, regulation,” said Faith Mahlmeister, a junior at St. Joseph. “Teams hate coming here to play us because it’s so small.”
Her classmate, Zach Roach, agrees. “The floor condition is horrible,” said Roach.
Fr. David Huffman is the Pastor for the Ironton/Pine Grove Catholic Community. He first got to Ironton around 10 years ago. “I would especially go to their games and see gyms that were always the visitor, and I would dream that our kids would sometime have a place where they could call home,” he said.
That dream would then lead to the creation of a focus group to determine what the school and community needed. “People of all ages need something that will serve them, and be proud of, and [that will] reenergize them,” said Fr. Huffman.
One of those needs was the need for a new gymnasium. The Flyers have not had a gym to call ‘home’ in decades. The focus group came up with the idea of the Parish Life Center. Now, the days practicing at the old gym are numbered, as Flyer Nation is getting a brand-new gymnasium.
The $2.5 million dollar Parish Life Center features a shining basketball court as its focal point. Faith Mahlmeister is ready for the gym to open up, to say the least. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Mahlmeister. “Saint Joe’s moving a step up in the game and it’s cool, it’s exciting.”
Zach Roach, on the other hand, is anxious about seeing the crowd once he takes on the court. “There isn’t going to be orange and black in there anymore. It’s going to be purple and gold, it’s going to be ours,” said Roach. “I just can’t wait to just run out and see our fans and see how excited they are. Seeing the crowd in a new whole new environment and seeing what they’re gonna be like is going to unbelievable.”
As excited as Faith and Zach might be to take on the court, someone else has already been practicing his flick of the wrist on the brand new floor. “I did enjoy
coming in and when they first put down the rims and the bank boards, of course the nets needed to be fluffed up, so I had to shoot in each one of them,” said Fr. Huffman.
The gym is definitely the highlight of the Parish Life Center, but Faith Mahlmeister knows that it’s more than just a gym. “It’s not just a gym, it’s for everybody, it’s for the Catholic community,” said Mahlmeister.
According to Fr. Huffman, the Parish Life Center is handicap accessible and will also be used to have bereavement meals after funerals. “We tried to think of the needs not only of sports, but for the older people who prepare the food [after funerals] and bring it in,” said Fr. Huffman. “We have two large sized rooms that other people, we believe, in the community will have a need for.”
Fr. Huffman says the uses for the building aren’t limited in scope or exclusive to any one event. “The windows that you saw in the entrance tell us a lot about our faith, and when people come, they’ll see it’s not only for school, but it’s for the church community,” said Fr. Huffman. “We just have a vision for all kind of people, not only our own, but community people using it.”
Bishop Jeffrey Monforton will be at the Parish Life Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. to dedicate the building. As for the Flyers, the first time they’ll take on the court will be for their home opener on November 30th while Flyer Nation cheers them on.