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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
Hoopsters seeking indoor basketball opportunities will soon have their shot inside a state-of-the-art facility in North Charleston.
The city is doling out $14 million to construct a three-gym complex near the public works campus off Remount Road. It'll be beside the future Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments building currently under construction.
The city awarded Trident Construction and McMillan Pazdan Smith Architects funds to design and build the complex, which will be visible from Interstate 26. Officials said the facility should be completed by fall 2019.
The complex will contain three gyms with full-size, 84-foot courts - all under one roof. The main gymnasium will seat up to 1,600 people with two smaller gyms adjacent. Fourteen baskets will hang inside.
There are only a handful of indoor courts in the state's third-largest municipality and tri-county region.
In many cases, residents rely on outdoor courts similar to those at Russelldale and Highland Terrace, which can be brutal in the summer heat.
Soon, they'll play inside.
"You're going from a recreational gym environment to a competitive gym environment. These kids will actually be able to play on the wooden floors," said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. "We recognized (the need) for a number of years."
North Charleston Councilwoman Dorothy Williams, who represents the district where the facility is being built, has lived in Highland Terrace for decades. She recalls taking her children to the Danny Jones gym years ago when, at one point, it didn't have air conditioning. She said she's glad to see North Charleston making strides, especially near low-income areas.
"I'm so happy," Williams said. "We need that in North Charleston. ... It's being built in the low-to-moderate neighborhood. That normally doesn't happen. So many people are going to be able to walk to the gym."
In the city, North Charleston residents play basketball inside four local gyms between Danny Jones, Ferndale and Northwoods. The city also uses River Oaks Middle School through a partnership with Dorchester District 2.
Now, the city's recreation department can serve a booming population in one place.
"Having that number of gyms under one roof gives you a lot of opportunity," said North Charleston Recreation Director Ed Barfield. "We have a very large youth basketball program. This will give us an opportunity to better serve our kids."
But basketball will be just one option. The facility will host wrestling, volleyball and pickleball events. It will have locker rooms and an eating area.
The project should also help alleviate financial burdens on many Amateur Athletic Union teams and other North Charleston sports families who trek for tournaments. Many families simply can't afford to travel. This facility would bring those events to their backyard.
"It gives the entire city a sense of pride," Summey said.
Hospitality dollars are expected to help pay for the project as it lures athletic competitions. Initially, the city will borrow money by issuing bonds and pay it back with accommodations and hospitality tax revenue, said Councilman Ron Brinson, who chairs the Finance Committee.
The three-gym complex is part of an $80 million capital improvement program, which includes an aquatics center that broke ground Aug. 8 near Fort Dorchester High School, and a $50 million dollar parking garage at the North Charleston Coliseum. City Council also approved funds for the garage at the Aug. 9 meeting.
Some said the complex will help curb crime. The city had three homicides in a single week in May, and five killings in five days earlier this month.
Tony Grasso, neighborhood president of the Russelldale community, said it will help steer the city's youth in the right direction.
"When I see something new like this, this is a breath of fresh air," Grasso said. "When a kid has nothing to do, what's left? I am thrilled to death. The city needs it. It takes the kids out of the devious things."
Brinson said the facility will meet a demand the same way the Senior Center on Dorchester Road helps older residents. The center welcomed 500 members after opening in April.
"It's amazing. It's sort of a pent-up demand for these kind of gathering places," Brinson said.
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