WORTHINGTON -- It is striking when you first walk into the new home of Worthington gymnastics and compare it to the old digs.

Granted, that might not seem like much of a comparison. The downtown armory wasn’t remotely suited for gymnastics. It was aged, stodgy and ill-fitting. It was tight, frankly. There was barely enough room for the gymnasts to perform, and not enough elbow room for fans, either. The changing area was small and unsatisfactory as well.

On Monday afternoon, coach Joni Reitmeier’s Trojans held their first practice in the Worthington Area Learning Center/Gymnastics Facility. As Reitmeier led one half of the 2019-20 squad through calesthenics, volunteer coach Roger Geertsema timed the other half running laps, and assistant coach Junior Nguyen attended to details, the bright and airy gymnasium fairly sparkled.

The facility features south side upper deck seating for fans, and more seating can be made available by opening large doors on the north end. There’s a big new scoreboard on the west side and silhouettes of gymnasts in action on high white walls. Across a large section of the south wall, a mirrored panel allows athletes to see themselves as they practice or perform. Home and visitor locker rooms, each with its own restroom, are spacious and clean.

“I think this is awesome,” Nguyen said, considering the arena. “I think this is going to help us get to the next step. It gets the team all hyped up, especially this year since we get to host sections. They get to show off their new home.”

Worthington has already made big steps in gymnastics over the years. Last year, the Trojans qualified for the state tournament for a fifth consecutive season.

Certainly, a gymnasium like this one can’t hurt the program.

“The training opportunity here -- the safety quality here -- is so much better than the armory,” said Reitmeier. “You can already see with the younger kids, the bravery, the absence of fear that they don’t have to worry about landing if they don’t always do it right.”

The extra room, and the updated landing areas, will decrease stress on the bodies. With that, they can do more reps.

One of the veterans, Gracia Elias, likes the fact that there are petroleum foam blocks in the large pit area for the uneven parallel bars.

“You can flip tricks into it without being worried about landing on the hard mat,” she smiled.

Concluded Reitmeier: “I think I feel completely honored that this school district, and the people, gave us the opportunity to be in a place like this.”