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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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Brickyard gym's tough exterior houses friendly atmosphere


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"Nobody cares what you smell like in here," Funk points out, clad in a well-worn and independently pungent sweatshirt that arrived several moments before he did. "In other gyms, most of the women were putting on makeup before their workouts."

The clientele is about as diverse as you could imagine. African-Americans, Hmongs, Caucasians and Hispanics can be found pumping iron at any given time.

"I have guys on unemployment working out next to a doctor earning a few hundred grand a year," Weber says. "We all walk the same path. Each is treated the same way."

"We've got doctors, cops, firemen, priests, straight people, gay people, a beautiful mix," Funk says. "Everyone seems to get along as though the gym is a neutral territory."

"I encourage people to bring young family members down to the gym -- kids at a young age," Weber explains. "I encourage families to work out together."

Funk took that heart and introduced his 23-year-old daughter Valerie to the Brickyard when she was younger.

"It's one way we can be together," says the younger Funk. "It gives us another opportunity, another level to communicate on, a different dimension to our relationship."

Valerie comes to the Brickyard to relieve stress and recognized a lot of people tend to work hard when they come to this gym.

"I used to go to an all-women's gym," Valerie says, "but it's not the same; it doesn't matter what you wear here. It doesn't matter what you look like."

Coming to the gym causes Valerie to push harder for a better workout. She says in society, there is a lot of pressure for a girl to look good, even when working out.

"At the Brickyard, nobody hits on you," she says. "They teach you, show you how to do things right, the proper way to lift."

The hard-core gym has a softer side. A simple memorial was set up by the front door for a member who recently died in a car accident. His obituary was carefully cut from the newspaper and attached to the wall. The flower arrangement was resting below the article on a small table.

Recently, another member donated a new punching bag that adorns the entranceway. Valerie has donated posters depicting beautiful women and iron-chested guys that are pinned on the walls. Occasionally, Weber will post signs for touch football games, barbeques and even whitewater rafting trips in which members are encouraged to participate.

The elder Funk describes how coming to the gym helped him when he was trying to give up alcohol.

"There are some other guys here in recovery," he says. "It's one way we can talk to each other, give each other support. A certain spiritual level goes on here, a camaraderie, the kind of place I wanted to bring my family to."

Brickyard may be a term that inspires images of brawn and industry but beneath the tough exterior and unfinished interior of this Bay View Brickyard is perhaps the heart of something different: support from friendships, encouragement from family and a firmer butt.

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