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Tuesday, June 25
The Indiana Daily Student

sports high school sports

After the game: Meet Frank McMahon

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NEW CASTLE, Ind. — The custodian watched the final shot arc toward the basket. As the buzzer rang and the crowd stood to leave, Frank McMahon headed for a storage closet across the huge gym.

“All right,” he said. “Now the fun begins.”

Frank is tall, built like a baseball pitcher, with white Nikes and a green New Castle Trojans ballcap. He arrived late in the first period, but it wasn’t a problem. Frank’s not on the clock until the end of the game.

He, along with four students who help, are in charge of cleaning the world’s largest high school gym after every game.

The five largest high school gyms in the country are in Indiana, but the New Castle Fieldhouse reigns king with seating for 9,325 fans when auxiliary bleachers are pulled out.

Three years ago, the Anderson High School Indians closed their 8,996-seat Wigwam to save $550,000 on utilities and personnel. The Wigwam used to pack a full house. So did the New Castle Fieldhouse.

But lately, high school basketball hasn’t had the draw it once did.

Games against big rivals like Anderson would fill the Fieldhouse years ago. Only 1,337 fans showed up in the game against the Indians last week.

For Frank, fewer visitors means less trash at the end of the game.

“Oh, this is nothing,” he said laughing. “This is gravy right here.”

While the rest of the crew cleaned the stands — first by hand for the popcorn boxes, nacho boats and pop bottles, then with gas-powered leaf blowers for the popcorn kernels, ticket stubs and dust — Frank mopped up a few small spills on the track that rings the Fieldhouse.

“Best part is you get a good view of it all,” he said, pausing for a moment, leaning on the mop. “I could walk these stands in my dreams.”

Frank grew up following his father, an MLB relief pitcher, wherever he was playing that summer. Frank made his way to Indiana about 20 years ago at the urging of a friend. Today, he works in the cafeteria for the schools in New Castle, is a part-time pitching coach and remodels houses on the side.

“I work in the food service job, and that pays just about squat,” he said. “I took this to make some extra money while I could still coach baseball. That was over nine years ago. You just sort of stay.”

After about an hour and a half, the Fieldhouse was clean. Frank loaded up piles of trash bags into the bed of his pickup truck and filled almost two dumpsters full.
Once their job was done, the crew pulled out a basketball.

Alone in the world’s largest high school gym, they took turns making shots, the bounce of the ball echoing off the hardwood bleachers.

“It seems like nothing new, now that I’ve been here awhile,” he said. “But it’s still pretty cool that it’s the biggest.”

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