By Steve Keenan
A much-needed auxiliary gymnasium is taking shape at Valley High School.
The gym will be regulation full-court, will have a seating capacity of between 250 and 300 (all on one side), and will be air-conditioned. There will be no restroom facilities, so spectators will have to walk through the main gym to utilize the current bathrooms.
The project will cost around $1.6 million, with the majority being West Virginia School Building Authority funding, as well as a local contribution from the Fayette County Board of Education.
Gassaway-based Flint Construction is the main contractor, with Kline Masonry of Winfield serving as a sub-contractor. According to Flint Construction foreman Roger Jackson, about 12 men are working towards a projected completion of mid-February.
The gym will have six goals for basketball, as well as being lined for volleyball, too.
For a variety of reasons, Valley High Principal Lee Loy is excited about the pending completion of the project.
“It’s going to be pretty nice,” Loy said. “I’m very pleased we’re getting what we’re going to get.”
While likely not to see any basketball games played there this winter, Loy hopes to stage commencement exercises in the facility for the 66-member Class of 2013. And, he says his future schedule will allow him to mix things up a little more. “We’ll be able to schedule a lot of different venues in there.”
The possibility of boys and girls middle school teams or boys and girls high school teams playing contests at the same time in the adjoining gyms now exists, something Loy has discussed with his fellow principals. If scheduling would allow, it should make for a shorter day for student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. “We have so many extracurricular activities, we like to limit the time the kids are out,” said Loy.
More gym space will also allow Valley High to “segregate PE classes” and do away with some of the combined classes.
Having two gyms should allow all Valley high and middle teams to practice and play onsite, Loy said. The school currently has a contract with Living Waters Christian Fellowship in Montgomery for some use of the old Montgomery Middle school gym, as well as being allowed by the City of Smithers to use the old Oakland gym free of charge. The need to transport students offsite should no longer be necessary, and supervising students solely at the school will be a plus.
In game administration, the move will make things better security-wise, Loy stressed. “It will change how we enter.” Once the project is complete, spectators for sporting events will use a new entrance at the auxiliary side of the gym, leaving the main school entrance for other school-related functions. “That’s a plus for me.”
Original hopes were for the gym to be ready for the coming basketball season, but there were delays regarding removal of the tennis courts. “I was a little disappointed, but I kind of expected it,” said Loy. “I’m just very grateful of the facilities we will get.”
At the groundbreaking for the gym in May, the efforts of former Fayette County Board of Education president Leon Newman, who passed away in 2011, in facilitating the gym project were recognized. “Today we honor a man who worked tirelessly to attain this gym,” Loy said at the time.