DECATUR TOWNSHIP – Don Coleman finished his weight-room workout inside Armstrong Pavilion.
He was accompanied by several friends, all senior citizens.
They spent much of their time walking repeated laps of the eighth-mile, rubberized track inside the massive building on the Decatur Central High School campus. They then moved to the weight room, where they worked out on some of the array of machines and stations.
“This is the bar without being a bar.”
That, says Nick Jenkins, is just part of what the pavilion is all about.
“The majority of our members are senior members,” said Jenkins, DC Athletic Supervisor and director of the pavilion who is also a varsity assistant for the baseball team. “It’s a close-knit group that comes in. It’s a family-friendly environment. When school’s out, some bring in their grandkids. They’ll play basketball while the adults walk.”
The pavilion is more than a facility for the community. Much more.
“It’s a community center,” noted Justin Dixson, DC’s Director of Athletics. “It gives people the opportunity to get out of the weather. They maintain their health and can build friendships.
“It’s not only great for the community, but it’s another facility for our athletes.”
The pavilion, with a huge open area in the middle, was erected by the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township in 1989.
It is dedicated to Marvin “Pete” Armstrong (1927-88), who was a student, teacher, coach, counselor and administrator for Decatur Township Schools, a span that lasted 32 years.
It’s quite the facility.
Circumventing the open area that is 215 feet long by 115 feet wide is the rubberized eighth-mile track. Inside the track, which is cordoned off by large curtains, is the multi-purpose floor that has two full-sized basketball courts. Near the entryway is the weight room, full of weights and lifting machines. There are restrooms, locker rooms and a room for trainers. DC has even used the facility for indoor track meets.
And it’s open to the public, Monday through Friday, from 5:30 a.m. to noon. The remainder of the time is devoted to Decatur Township schools.
Memberships are $125 per year for adults, $75 for seniors, $50 for college students and $30 for middle and high school students.
“We offer payment plans,” notes Jenkins.
Area residents are buying into those memberships.
“It’s great for the township to have this here,” said Mike Stoval, one of those senior members. “I drove a forklift for 36 years. I joined this on the month I retired. I gave myself a week. I was sitting down too much.
“I have neuropathy of the feet, so I need to keep moving. Walking does me good. Plus, it’s air-conditioned.”
Coleman echoed those sentiments, saying, “I’ve got COPD, so I’m on oxygen. The doctor told me I needed respiratory rehab. So I’m here. I knew these guys. We go to see car shows together. So I decided to try it.
“I see improvement. It works out. It’s fun to hang out with your buds.”
“They welcome new members,” said Jenkins. “They’re always ready to help. As a new guy coming in, they welcome you, so you’re happy to be there.”
Two of those veteran members, Norma Gaston and Ken Almon, concurred.
“This is a wonderful building,” Almon said.
“It’s very, very generous of the school to let their patrons use it. It was built for this purpose, for school and student uses. The community has gotten a lot of use.”
Gaston started coming to the facility when she was teaching at Decatur.
“When I was teaching, I would get up, come over here, work out, go back home, take a shower and go to work,” she said. “When I retired, they gave me a lifetime membership to the pavilion. I use it as much as my schedule allows.”
And the pavilion’s schedule allows.
“It’s for the athletes when they can’t be out on the field,” said Dixson. “It’s definitely a busy facility. Tennis, track, cross country – they all use it. It’s multi-purpose. It’s a nice floor for them, and we can do softball and baseball stuff in there.”
“Everybody gets their own time.”