The historic Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana — featured in the 1986 sports film Hoosiers, in which a small-town Indiana high school basketball team wins the state championship — is a treasure of nostalgia for movie and hoops fans alike. But to preserve such nostalgia on a nearly century-old building, major maintenance is often needed.
That was certainly the case at the Hoosier Gym. Fortunately, a crew at Insulated Roofing Contractors (IRC) from nearby New Albany, Indiana, was ready to help the gym rebound.
Built in 1921 and renovated in 1936, the local Knightstown Falcons high school basketball team called the gym home through 1966. After their last game that season, the gym lay mostly dormant for 20 years until a film crew discovered it as a perfect set for Hoosiers. Since the movie exploded into global prominence, the gym — which remains in mostly the same condition as it was in 1936 and in the movie — has become a popular historic site to host weddings, receptions, political events, commercials, and even occasional basketball games.
Now run entirely by volunteers, the gym operators noticed early in 2016 that several spots in the facility’s roof were leaking. All of the initial leaks were above the bleachers, but something had to be done before damaging leaks could develop above the iconic floor. As a result, the operators reached out to IRC in search of an immediate solution.
Hoosier Gym’s status as a mostly donation-supported organization run by volunteers meant that it could not afford a full replacement of the roof. As a result, IRC was aware early in the process that it would have to propose a job with a limited budget.
“They needed an effective and affordable solution, which ended up being a silicone roof coating restoration [RCR] from Progressive Materials,” said Senior Project Manager Jim Kaiser, who oversaw the 8,700-square-foot (808.3 m²) project. “The job could be completed in three days for a fraction of the cost of a replacement.”
The modified bitumen substrate was in “decent shape,” Kaiser added. “It didn’t look terrible, but it had some scuffs and tears that led to the leaks,” he said. With a strategy ready, they headed to the court.
Drawing up the Play
Since the gym had a barrel roof, there was a higher risk of falls than normal for the four-man crew that went to work on the project. As such, the priority on the first day was to take extra safety precautions. That meant using skyhook anchors from Guardian Fall Protection, a Fall Safe harness, and Rebel Protecta Retractable tie-offs from 3M’s Capital Safety.
“We installed three anchors along the center of the roof, where it was flat, that we could tie off,” Kaiser said. “The anchors are now a permanent safety feature of the roof, should any additional work need to be done.”
With safety precautions complete, the IRC team returned to work on day two by power washing the modified bitumen roof to remove all dirt and grease stains. With the roof washed, IRC then installed spray foam left over from another project at one end of a curb to completely encapsulate the building.
After waiting a short period of time for the roof to dry completely, the crew was ready to apply the first coat of the high-solids, 100 percent silicone coating, Pro-Eco Sil HS 3200 Series. But with frigid weather on an early spring morning, they took special care to keep the material at the proper temperature by moving the drums of material around to prevent over-chilling the coating from inertia.
“The weather also improved as the day went on, and after a while the cold was no longer a concern,” said Josh McKain, marketing manager with IRC.
Unfortunately for the crew, cold weather was not the only distraction prior to application. Then Indiana Governor and current U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence stopped by to film a commercial inside the historic gym, which further delayed the work by about three hours, McKain said.
Once the commercial filming concluded, IRC went to work by using a single-component spray gun manufactured in-house by IRC. The company generally obtains its parts from Graco, McKain said.
Wearing face socks and spray suits as personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid getting the coating on themselves, the team used the gun to apply the first coat at an average of 17 mils (431.8 microns). As one crew member sprayed, another quickly followed with a roller to backroll the coating and push it into all of the roof’s crevices. In doing so, the crew added an extra layer of the silicone coating to any damaged seams, ensuring that no leaks would appear later.
The coating requires two-to-three hours of cure time to be tack free and six-to-eight hours to be fully cured, so the IRC crew allowed it to cure overnight before returning on day three. On that morning, the crew again sprayed and backrolled the coating at approximately 18 mils (457.2 microns) to achieve an average of 35 mils (889.0 microns) of total system thickness.
With the second coat cured, the system created a seamless membrane on the roof. This membrane is designed to stop current leaks and prevent future leaks, thereby protecting the historic Hoosier Gym floor.
Volunteers who run the gym have been quite pleased with the early results.
“No leaks have been reported to us, and that’s the best feedback there is,” McKain said.
In addition to protecting the floor, the Hoosier Gym is also seeing reduced energy costs, since the white coating reflects the sun’s heat — rather than absorbing it. This helps significantly in keeping the gym cooler during the summer months.
Furthermore, the Hoosier Gym’s cost savings from avoiding a complete roof replacement were then redirected to help replace air conditioning units that were failing.
Looking ahead, the renewable nature of the system means that it can be updated in 15 to 20 years by simply applying another layer of the coating, according to IRC officials. This should translate into minimal repairs and maintenance expenses, as well as no replacement costs for the gym.
“We were proud to provide an innovative system that saved money for this iconic facility, and it should keep the gym floor safe for years to come,” McKain said.
It’s not easy to maintain a now 97-year-old facility, especially on a tight budget, but IRC’s contractors took the long shot and got the job done. Swish!