Sometimes spur-of-the-moment trips are the best kind to make.
I couldn’t help but notice the past two years seeing the signs for the famous Hoosier Gym along the interstate in rural Indiana. So, while returning home from taking our oldest daughter, Brooke, for her junior year in college at Cedarville, Ohio, two weeks ago, I told my wife, let’s make a stop at the Hoosier Gym.
The gym, made famous by the 1986 movie “Hoosiers,” depicting the fictional Hickory Huskers, is just a short jaunt off I-70 east of Indianapolis located in Knightstown, Ind. It’s a quiet, small rural town of 2,100. We made a left as we got into town and then a right, and found the quaint gym located in a residential area.
The gym, built in 1921, became obsolete it 1966 and sat relatively unused for 20 years. It proved to be a gold mine when Hollywood came calling to Hoosier country 20 years later seeking a gym and other landscapes to film the movie “Hoosiers.”
The curator told us that Knightstown’s gym was picked when another Indiana town turned down the offer to have the entire movie filmed in its small town when it wouldn’t delay the demolition of its gym by 90 days. Instead, Hollywood picked Knightstown’s gym and two other towns to use for their school and restaurant settings.
That proved to be a multimillion-dollar mistake, as the curator told us more than 70,000 guests come to town just to visit the gym each year. He also said new restaurants have been built in town to accommodate their new hungry visitors.
Kami and I stepped into the gym and instantly, you felt like you stepped right into the movie. Much like the times I walked onto the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.
The gym was rustic as portrayed with wooden bleachers on each side behind a wooden wall. I could still see coach Norman Dale sitting on the bench with a towel clenched in his hand and Jimmy Chitwood swishing his shots.
The floor was shiny with a yellow “H” inside a red circle (Hickory colors) at center court, and the big Hickory banner hung behind on the wall behind one basket next to the big team picture of the Hickory Huskers that is shown in the movie.
I, of course, being a native Hoosier and “Hoosiers” movie fan, had to shoot some hoops. I found a rack of balls there for all visitors to use, and quickly headed to a basket. I had the gym all to myself for a while — though I could feel Jimmy, Ollie, Everett, Buddy and the other Huskers there with me.
A family of six joined me soon on the court, having stopped on their way back home to Pennsylvania from Chicago where the mom told us they saw the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center. This stop made their basketball tour complete.
Kami and I stepped down into the locker room, where memorable scenes in the movie were shot. It’s as dreary and dungeon-like as it appears in the movie. A chalkboard displays the Huskers famous “Picket Fence” play along with famous movie lines such as “Don’t get caught watching the paint dry (Shooter),” “I’ll make it (Jimmy Chitwood),” “Four passes,” and “My team’s on the floor” (Norman Dale).
The curator told us nearly 80 high school and other games are still played at the Hoosier Gym each year, including an upcoming matchup between a top-ranked team from Chicago and St. Louis, and the annual Hoosier Classic where Indiana’s best high school cagers come to play.
I couldn’t think of a better place to come watch a game or play than the Hoosier Gym. You should make the stop if you ever get the chance.
For more information, visit the hoosiergym.com or find it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
BCR Sports Editor Kevin Hieronymus is a native Hoosier, born in Noblesville, Ind. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.