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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
The old machine shop on 64th Street in Fort Oglethorpe was piling up with dust and spare parts before the city turned it into a fully functioning gymnasium complete with a scoreboard, concession stand and bleachers.
The city has been working on this project for decades, trying to make a space for kids to play in the winter months, but debating on location and prices, said City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins.
Ultimately, the city signed an intergovernmental agreement with Catoosa County to gain access to county property located in Fort Oglethorpe. Supplemented by money from special local purpose option sales tax (SPLOST) cycles, with Catoosa kicking in some of its own SPLOST funds, the city had $1.2 million to create a space where kids and families could escape the cold and play.
"It's something we've needed for a long time," Payne-Simpkins said.
Having just celebrated its grand opening Jan. 6, the gym is already being used seven days a week, she said.
The gymnasium was named the Fort Oglethorpe Field House, a tribute to the nearby baseball and softball fields that served as polo fields for the 6th Cavalry, as well as a reference to the fact that many sports will be played in the new gym.
Payne-Simpkins said recreation league games will primarily be held in the Field House, though there are plans to open it up for public gym time in the future.
Craig Crawford, a Fort Oglethorpe league coach and board member, used to have to take his teams to Graysville to practice.
"It was out of the way, so now having our own gymnasium is just convenient, and it's a beautiful facility," he said.
Crawford grew up playing in the local leagues with no facility to play in. Now, he said, he sees his old coaches bringing their grandkids to the Field House.
"You can't explain the excitement," Crawford said.
Since the facility opened, many kids have approached league coaches about playing on a team, he said, adding that both the league and gymnasium have plenty of space for new members. The gym has enough room inside for four teams to practice, Crawford said.
Talks of starting a volleyball rec league are in motion, and the process of putting two batting cages in the gymnasium has already begun, said Crawford.
With state-of-the-art decals on the floor and basketball goals bearing the LFO Recreation Association's logo in the city's colors, the kids feel like superstars.
"Every time they are out there they're smiling," Crawford said. "They think they're at the college, [that] they are in the pros, with the backboard and the decal."
Email Alexandra Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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