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Catholic Parish Life Center nearing completion

St. Joseph to be in conference beginning in 2019-2020

Construction on the new Ironton Catholic Community Parish Life Center has been going on for almost a year and the project is nearing its completion.

The center is located between South Fourth and South Fifth streets across from the Ironton Catholic Community parish office, with the main entrance on the Fifth Street side.

“It should be finished in around another three months or so, around May or June,” Father David Huffman, pastor of the Ironton Catholic community, said. “We’re shooting for it to be finished for the charity fair, which is the last weekend in May.”

Inside the center will include a new, regulation-sized basketball court, with four hoops on the sides, making two smaller courts available, seating for 550 spectators, locker rooms, a weight room and a coaches office. There will also be a trophy case at the main entrance, two meeting rooms, with space for about 40-50 people in each, a full-size kitchen, restrooms, a concession stand, an area for storage, a room for audio/video equipment and a parking lot outside of the main entrance with spaces for about 35-40 cars.

Huffman said that all of the equipment for the kitchen, tables, chairs and other supplies have already been purchased, with many items coming from the auction at the old Fannin auto dealership in Ashland.

Features on the outside of the center will include faceted glass windows depicting the Seven Sacraments outside of the main entrance, faceted glass windows making up two crosses, one in several different colors for the top of the main entrance, and the other in blue at the top of the back entrance where sports teams will enter, matching the lights of the new Ironton-Russell Bridge that it faces.

“The faceted glass windows are to show that it is for church functions and gatherings also, not just for sports,” Huffman said. “And the building will have brick to match our school and stone to match our church.”

Huffman said that the need for such a center was there, as St. Joseph High School has not been in a conference for sports for quite some time, often making finding opponents and scheduling difficult.

“Our present gym is a 1925 model, which was state-of-the-art in those days,” Huffman said jokingly. “But not having good sports facilities for a while for soccer, baseball and basketball, and since our football program died out in the early 90s, it’s hurt us. We no longer belonged to a sports conference or league, and constantly had to look for games.”

Huffman did add, however, that since the baseball and soccer field has been built and worked on recently, along with the building of the parish life center, the school would belong to a conference starting in the 2019-2020 season.

St. Joe Athletic Director Greg Bryant said that the school would now belong to the smaller division of the Southern Ohio Conference (SOC) again, which includes Symmes Valley, Green, Portsmouth Notre Dame, Portsmouth Clay, New Boston, Sciotoville East, Beaver Eastern and Latham Western.

The last time St. Joe was part of the SOC was in 1989.

“This means a lot to these kids,” Bryant said. “Now, they have something to play for, regular season-wise, in trying to win a conference championship.”

He added that when St. Joe officially becomes a part of the conference again, 70 percent of the scheduling would be taken care of.

“We’ll have our regular conference rotation games,” Bryant said. “And then we’ll be able to pick and choose our non-conference opponents.”

Huffman said that since the announcement of the parish life center last year, there has been a lot of excitement about it.

“There’s a growing enthusiasm as people see the construction rapidly progressing,” he said. “The size of the building and the many functions that it will fulfill for the church and our school will be a great thing. It’s an investment in the future of our youth and people of all ages in the Catholic community and beyond.”

Memorial donations are also available with an option to get something on the gym floor for $100,000 all the way down to purchasing one of the 550 spectator seats for $100 each. Any donations are also being accepted. Donations can be sent to St. Joseph School, P.O. Box 499, Ironton, OH 45638.

The Ironton Catholic Community includes St. Joseph, St. Lawrence O’Toole and St. Mary in Pine Grove.