In many ways, the Building II Rec Hall embodies the heart and soul of this blue-collar town.
It has played a part in the lives of thousands living in the central Pennsylvania region. Its walls are covered with faces both young and old from various teams of yesteryear.
Twenty-five years ago, Carl Bennett brought the old Altoona Armory back to life, and since that time, he and his family have given our community a one-of-a-kind athletic experience.
The Building II has been the home gym for numerous basketball greats. The likes of Mike Iuzzolino, Doug West, Danny Fortson, Candace Futrell and Johnny Moore are just a few that have spent countless hours honing their skills in this fantastic atmosphere.
When St. Francis College decided to replace its floor at DeGol Arena, Carl brought the floor upon which the Red Flash clinched an NCAA Tournament birth to his building. Over the years, thousands of grade school and high school players have run up and down its planks, creating memories of their own.
The Bennetts have provided the young athletes of our community with a wonderful, family-run business that is a safe place to strengthen body, mind and spirit.
The aerobic and weight facilities have been a part of the daily routine of hundreds of our citizens. On any given day, you will find law enforcement officers, firefighters, district magistrates, state representatives, teachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, retirees and a variety of others socializing while doing their workouts.
People of all ages, class and race come together at the Building II, and every holiday season the Bennetts throw a wonderful party with food, drink and camaraderie for all of its members.
Carl, Ann and their son Mark know and care about those who frequent their facility. A friendly face is guaranteed to greet everyone as they sign in. In a world where big business rules, the Building II has always been customer-centered, providing reasonable rates for all those that frequent the gym.
Last Saturday night, the Building II lost a large portion of its facilities to a fire. The weight room and gymnasium were spared, but the nautilus and cardio workout rooms were a complete loss, along with many pictures and memorabilia that can never be replaced. While walking through the burnt remains and seeing the devastation, I realized that the Building II is one of the few remaining slices of Americana in this 21st century world.
Like the theme song from the television sitcom "Cheers," it's a place "where everybody knows your name."
It is a facility for fitness, but more importantly, a place where countless friendships have been built and maintained throughout the years.E-mails and faxes take a backseat to genuine conversation at the Building II. In a world of uncertainty and change, the Building II offers individuals much needed normalcy.
It has become a part of their daily routine, something they can depend on.
The Bennett family has truly been touched and is extremely grateful for all the love and support they have received since the fire. The people of this town are fantastic about reaching out to its own during trying times.
Here's hoping that love and support continues so the Building II can open its doors again soon.
Tom Fox, a former St. Francis basketball player, resides in Altoona.