Recreation department's gym in Blenheim getting lots of use

Recreation department's gym in Blenheim getting lots of use
"If you build it - they will come," says the ghostly voice in the 1980s hit movie "Field of Dreams."
It also seems to be true that if you just provide it - they will come.
For years, one of the biggest missing pieces in the Marlboro County Recreation Department's puzzle was a gym. To run any indoor programs, the Recreation Department had to coordinate with the school district to use one of their gymnasiums, usually on a weekend.
However, that changed when the district turned over the old Blenheim High School gym to the Recreation Department last year after the completion of the new Blenheim school.
"We have done a good bit of rehabilitation to the building and have a lot more that we want to do in the future," said MC Recreation Department Director Gary Harrington.
"The air conditioning systems needed a lot of work. We have fixed the air in the canteen and game room areas. The gym still needs to be addressed," he said.
The gym did get the lights fixed and the Recreation Department had to change all the locks to secure the building. The building also required work to make it handicap accessible.
During the spring, the department started opening the gym in the evenings on Monday, Thursday and Saturday nights. The turnout surprised even Harrington.
Dozens of basketball players of all ages starting showing up for "open gym" nights.
This summer a group of volunteers put together a basketball league that kept the gym occupied and provided over 130 basketball players a place to hone their skills.
"We have a ten-man committee that worked to organize the league. We got donations from some people and others volunteered to coach and referee," said Thomas Stevens, one of the leaders of the summer league.
Although the league is independent of the Recreation Department, Stevens says everyone involved is glad to have a place to play ball.
"We have players from all over the county, not just the Blenheim area," said Stevens.
The adult league had four teams with about 50 players participating. Another 85 youth played in a younger league.
"We were also able to put together a game room, where kids of all ages have played board games, table tennis and cards," Stevens said.
The summer league is wrapping up play this week with a tournament. The first two rounds were played on Monday and Wednesday, with the finals set for tonight.
Although league play will conclude, Stevens says plans are being made to continue using the gym for basketball instruction throughout the fall.
On Saturday, August 15, an all-day basketball clinic will be offered free-of-charge to any youth players.
Beginning on September 12, there will be a morning clinic at the gym every other Saturday. Stevens credits Marlboro County High basketball coach James Pate for helping organize these free clinics, as well as serving as a referee during the summer.
Harrington says that the Recreation Department is reviewing its schedule for fall "open gym" nights and hopes to be able to offer even more access to the facility.
"We will also open the building for special events and for groups to use. We want to make the most of having a gym," says Harrington.

See page 7 for photos of the summer league teams.
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