Officials: West Park gym on track for December opening
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
After three years, Morgan County’s first county-owned gymnasium at West Park in the Danville-Neel community should be open before year’s end and youth league basketball games could be played there in January, according to Morgan officials.
Delays from the COVID pandemic and the shortage of construction materials have the $1.9 million gym behind schedule and over budget, District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest said. At its regular meeting June 14, the commission approved the payment of $457,330 to contractor Craft & Associates Inc. for “concrete and special construction,” according to the application for payment.
The original price tag for the 10,500-square-foot gym was $1.2 million, but the rising cost of materials and labor has it approaching $2 million. A settlement with 3M Co. over chemical contaminants is providing the bulk of the gym’s funding. Daikin America of Decatur gave $160,000 for the project before COVID arrived. Last year, county officials had anticipated an opening in September.
“The concrete slab is down, and the metal building has arrived,” Vest said. “They have it staged to erect. I expect they’ll be going up with the metal walls any day.”
He said the parking lot at the park will accommodate at least 250 vehicles, once the gym is open.
He said the construction schedule lists Dec. 26 as the completion date.
“The supply chain issues have slowed down the project. But the contractors said the metal components would be here in June; they made that date. They
made it here in late May. That’s encouraging,” Vest said. “There are a number of local construction companies signed on as subcontractors, so their proximity to the park should expedite the project. I want to tell the people it’s coming. I know it’s been three years that we’ve been working on it.”
Morgan County Parks and Recreation Director Sean Dailey said it’s possible that youth league basketball games will be played in the gym as early as January.
The county contracts with about 10 schools to host youth league competition. Dailey said Danville Middle School is the primary site near West Park.
“If it gets completed during the Christmas break, we can adjust our playing sites to take advantage of the gym opening,” Dailey said. “Right now, our schedule is secondary to the schools. Sometimes they have games or practices that make us change our schedule. The new gym will give us more control of our schedules.”
Only one game at a time can be played at the West Park facility, he said. The county has more than 100 youth league basketball teams with between 800 and 1,000 participants, with about 15% of those being from the Danville-Neel area, Dailey said. League games are played on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening and occasionally Saturday morning.
“It will be up to the community if the teams want to schedule practice with the schools,” Dailey said. “… The gym will open the opportunity to have more than just basketball. Volleyball and other sports can be played there. We’ll be able to host more tournaments, too.”
Gym for Cotaco
Ray Long, county commission chairman, said he wishes the gym had opened a decade ago, but funds weren’t available.
“When we began the plans for this gym, COVID brought things to a standstill,” Long said. “We’re finally moving on it. It is the first in the county that we actually own, but it won’t be the last. We’re building a similar gym on the east side at Cotaco.”
He said the commission has meetings planned with Goodwyn Mills Cawood architecture firm in Huntsville about that site. “We’ll meet with them again soon. They’re doing the design work and we’ll bid it out after that,” Long said.
He said that project should take 1½ years, with completion in late 2023 or early 2024. The proposed site is on 22 acres at the corner of Luker Road and Union Hill Road across the street from the District 4 shop, according to Commissioner Greg Abercrombie.
Long said funding for the project also will come from the 3M settlement money.
3M, which has a facility along the Tennessee River in Decatur, agreed to a $98.4 million settlement with Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities for the company’s past disposal of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The settlement finalized in November includes $5.4 million for the county to use on projects “that support and promote community development and recreation.”