Pine Village Gym to Come Down in March
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
It might not look like any other kind of basketball gym, even during its time as a high school basketball gymnasium. The off-beaten dome-shaped brown roof, white painted exterior, and compact size are lovely examples of small-town gyms of another era. Sadly, the Pine Village Gym this spring will be razed.
In a few short weeks, the 83-year-old gymnasium will come down to make room for parking for a new $20 million elementary school that will open this fall. The new school will have a modern gymnasium for its physical education classes, making the Pine Village Gym obsolete.
The school has doubled in size, and the upkeep of maintaining the 80-year gymnasium has become cost-prohibitive, only to increase in the following years. Many are saddened by the news, but there are many others who see it as a sign of progress in the town of around 200 people.
The building was part of the Works Progress Administration and featured a distinct look on its interior and exterior. Louis L. Johnson from nearby Attica was the architect of the gym. The work began in June of 1940 and cost $35,000, for which the Works Project Administration paid $29,000.
The roof features diamond-shaped wood trusses created by hand and without the aid of power tools. The pattern feels like an igloo due to its white color and domed-shaped ceiling. It is an understatement to say they don't make them like this anymore.
The seating bowl consists of three sides of wooden bleachers, a stage at the north end and two center-court lines, and the Pine Village logo. The court is below regulation lines.
The first basketball game at the gym was December 6, 1940, with a 38-27 win against Montmorenci; the last varsity game took place on February 17, 1973, marking the end of the era for the high school that would consolidate with Seeger the following academic year.
A standing-room-only crowd was on hand for the final tipoff that saw the Knots defeat Wheeler High School 90-66. An attendance figure of around 1,000 fans filled the seats. The village consisted of close to 600 residents at the time. Regardless of record, the town always supported the team very well.
“Like any small community, we had a lot of spirit, loyalty, and pride,” said alumni James Forster in 1973. He was on the 1934 Sectional championship team, “We had our share of rabid fans.”
The last hurrah for the Pine Knots was in 1972 when they captured its fifth sectional championship. The tiny school became the 'people’s choice' to capture the state title, the smallest school competing in the tourney. Pine Village had only 149 students when it faced off against the Benton Central Bisons, whose student body was 1,110, in the regional championship. They lost a heartbreaker to the Bisons 71-69.
Before the building was scheduled for demolition, a few people stopped by, filling up the parking lot for hours, to say goodbye. Many were alumni and a few players at the gym when it was the high school home for Pine Knots High School. After consolidation in 1973, the gym became home to elementary physical education classes and community events and games.
“This place was packed every Friday or Saturday night no matter the record,” said Jeff Jones, who took me on the tour of the places a few years back when news first broke on the gym’s pending future.
Marv Blessing was one of the visitors, a 1964 graduate; he showed up one last time donning his old varsity jacket. He reminisced about his playing days at the old gym and wondered why the building had to come down to the Indianapolis Star.
“They say it’s going to cost $2 million to keep it up. My question is, ‘How much is it going to cost to tear it down?’ It’s sad. It would have been nice to keep it as a community building, but I think the ones making the decisions probably didn’t go to school here.”
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com