Gymnasium plan sees support

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Following a presentation by a resident of Kenbridge to rescue the Kenbridge Gymnasium, members of the Kenbridge Town Council began the process to create a recreation committee aimed at preserving the building.

Joyce White Freeman, who has led a resident-organized committee to save the gymnasium, outlined the committee’s goals to support the gymnasium, which has seen deteriorating conditions due to lack of funding to make repairs.

The gymnasium, which had been part of the former Kenbridge High School, has been the subject of longtime debate by members of Town Council. The gymnasium needs significant repairs to its flooring, heating and cooling and restroom facilities that the town is unable to fund. Town Mayor Emory Hodges said potentially selling the building or demolishing the building has come up, but said members of the council did not have the heart to move the ideas forward.

Freeman, during the presentation, said the committee’s focus would be to provide maintenance and repairs through fundraising efforts.

Freeman asked that the town council approve the establishment of a board of directors to oversee the preservation of the gymnasium, which would consist of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and three additional board members. The board would report its activities to the town council, Freeman said. The board would be responsible for raising funds in order to supply the money needed to repair heating and cooling in the gymnasium, external power washing services, restroom repairs, floor repair and upgrade, install basketball hoop adjustments so the hoops can be raised and lowered and host local youth basketball games.

Freeman said the gymnasium has played “a vital role in the Town of Kenbridge … providing a safe haven for all walks to come and have structured recreational activities and gatherings.”

Freeman, a longtime basketball coach, said revitalizing the gymnasium would keep youth and their families in the county, and offer the chance for the town to earn revenue if tournaments, games and events were held at the gymnasium.

“The Kenbridge Recreational Center will provide a great environment for our community and make a meaningful difference in the lives of our youth,” Freeman said. “Not only will it add in our efforts to build a community, in addition, the building will be a resource to bring in revenue for the county.”

Freeman said it could be an estimated 12-18 months until the renovations are completed, projected to be fully operational by fall of 2020.

Freeman said the committee could receive quotes from professional and reputable area businesses to implement the renovation.

Town Mayor Emory Hodges praised the presentation for addressing aspects of the issues related to the gym.

“You pretty much touched on everything,” Hodges said.

Vice Mayor Ken Blackburn expressed support of the plan, and said there have been plans proposed, but have not materialized.

“We’ve been talking about this, but we’ve been talking about it like getting some group of people to take ownership of it,” Blackburn said. He gestured to Freeman. “There she is.”

Hodges made the suggestion for the town to develop a recreation committee focused on preserving the gymnasium. The committee could include a town council representative and members of the existing committee led by Freeman. Having a committee based from the town would also allow for the funding to be placed in a bank account and managed by the treasurer. Blackburn said this could take some of the workload off from members of the committee.

Freeman said council member Wanda Morrison is interested in volunteering and fundraising.

“I think it would be great to have a group of people to manage the gym,” council member Michael Bender said, adding that having organized events held at the gymnasium could attract people there. “That’s what we really want.”