Every Wednesday night for the past three decades, a group of Ballardites gather at the Trinity United Methodist church for a good old-fashioned game of basketball.
They call themselves the Old Timer’s League, and they’re about to lose their gym.
Patrick McCullough, at 70 years-old, is one of the founding members. The basketball club started in 1980 at an outdoor court in Discovery Park in the summer months, and when the weather turned, they stumbled upon Trinity United, who let them play every Wednesday night for a small fee.
The group has changed over the years — McCullough is the only founding member still in the club — but through word of mouth, it’s always had enough people to keep going. The players are all between the ages of 30 and 70, and the games are four-on-four, following their own set of rules.
Sometimes people bring their kids — one player used to bring his young daughters every week for about two years. The gym had a stage next to it, which McCullough said the girls used to hang out on while their dad played basketball.
“They would close the curtains on the stage, and then at some point they would stop us playing basketball so they could perform a play for us.”
Those girls are now in college, McCullough said.
Now, it looks like they’ll have to move on — the church has been bought, and they’ve been evicted.
“The day after Christmas will be our last night,” McCullough said.
Since they got the news, McCullough’s been hitting the pavement looking for new venues. He’s been to all the local community centers, schools, and churches, but everything is booked during weekdays.
Erik Hutchison has been playing with the club for 21 years. With a background in videography, he decided to document the hoopsters’ dilemma, and made the above video as an “appeal for help”, hoping the community might be able to help them find a new practice space.
“It’s been a labor of love,” he says of making the video. “The tradition, fellowship, stress release, and connecting with others in a real way are the common themes.”
It’s a sentiment echoed amongst all the players — an escape from their normal day-to-day lives and a chance to be active and connect with others.
“This is something I look forward to every week,” McCullough said. “It’s something to get away, where you don’t have to think about anything else, other than running up and down the court.”
McCullough tells My Ballard there’s a chance they might be able to convince the new owners to let them play, but nothing is definite as of yet. They hope to stay in Ballard, but anything “in striking distance” would be just fine, he says.
If you know of a gym where the Old TImers can keep their weekly tradition alive, reach out to us at email@example.com, and we’ll pass on the info.