There tends to be a lot of noise coming from gymnasiums, and this past Saturday at the J.I. Stipe Recreation Center gymnasium was no different. 

However, it wasn’t shoes squeaking on a hardwood floor or the bouncing of a basketball that generated the noise — it was thuds coming from people throwing bags onto boards four feet long and two feet wide that were adorned with logos of professional and collegiate sports teams.

It’s cornhole, and some locals in the area are hoping to attract people to the area in trying to grow the game. People are friendly, and games are calm, but they’re also competitive. Trevor Ouellette, a regional director for Oklahoma Cornhole Association who organizes tournaments, said he wanted to grow support for the sport in the area.

“I was camping one day, seen it on ESPN and thought, ‘Let’s try and grow it in McAlester and see what happens,’” Ouellette said.

The tournaments are just getting off the ground, though Saturday’s was not an Oklahoma Cornhole Association event. Ouellette put one on in June, and has more scheduled for the next two months. The next ones are set to convene on Aug. 24 and Sept. 28. The Savanna graduate said he is allowed to use the venue free of charge, and is hoping to organize tournaments every week instead of every month.

Ouellette is aiming for October to start doing the weekly tournaments because he needs more time to get his own boards made. Meanwhile, patrons will continue bringing theirs own boards.

He said the sport is gaining attention — American Cornhole League is occasionally featured on ESPN — and believes the sport can grow in McAlester.

“It’s bigger than people think,” he said.

Brothers-in-law Chuck Pace and Justin King, who were part of a group called Team Bigs, can attest to that.

The local pair has played out of state, including Tyler, Texas, and other Texas cities, and wore matching shirts of the Southern Oklahoma Cornhole Association — a league based in Ada, where they’ve previously played.

The two of them are strong advocates of the sport and hope to see it grow in the area.

They play about twice a month with family members in recreational tournaments that can last all day.

The duo got some extra practice Saturday morning. They began warming up outside the gym about two hours before start time.

King said he likes throwing in the Stipe Center more than outdoors. 

“It’s got A/C,” he said. “It’s different from playing outside. It’s nice to play inside. If you play outside, you’ve got to judge the wind, temperature, because the temperature makes your board sticky or makes them slide easier.”

Pace estimated he’s been going to tournaments with King for nearly two years, and is on board with growing the game in hopes of bringing money into the community.

“If we can get more locals to play, I think it will bring more people out of town and out of state, actually, to McAlester to play,” Pace said.

People can join the Oklahoma Cornhole Association through a yearly $20 membership. They can become members through Ouellette, either by reaching out to him on Facebook or calling him at 918-424-0386. 

“It’s a family event,” Ouellette said. “Anybody can play.

“It’s good for exercise, just something different for people to do,” he later added. 

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at cstolzenbach@mcalesternews.com