Emmett Scott gym to get cooling system

Move comes after months of lobbying for rec center supporters

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 16, 2013 

— The city of Rock Hill plans to install air conditioning in the Emmett Scott Recreation Center gym – a move the center’s supporters say they’re thankful for after about five months of lobbying for a cooling system.

“We feel so good about it – it’s not for us, it’s for the children,” said Josephine Jordan, a 1959 graduate of Emmett Scott High School.

The city started soliciting bids this month for a company to install two air conditioning units that will adequately cool the gym when about 177 people are in it.

“Air conditioning is happening,” said John Taylor, Rock Hill’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism operations supervisor. “Provided (the bidders’ plans) are within certain parameters, we’ll be moving forward.”

When the bidding process closes at the end of this month, Taylor said, the city will know how much the addition of air conditioning will cost. It’s expected that the gym will have air conditioning by the summer.

Jordan and about 25 others attended an August meeting in hopes of convincing the City Council that the center needs to be remodeled, not demolished. The gym was built in 1952.

Over the past few months, Rock Hill has been in talks with a company to make plans for an energy-saving cooling system that will reduce the city’s investment at Emmett Scott. A challenge for installing air conditioning, city officials have said, is that the gym has structural holes and lacks insulation.

The gym has a heating system, but unlike Rock Hill’s four other city-owned recreation centers, Emmett Scott’s gym does not have air conditioning.

“That does not look too good to some people,” Jordan told the council members five months ago.

Now, with the plans for air conditioning, she says the center’s supporters and those who think of Emmett Scott as a historical landmark are “very pleased.”

The center is on Crawford Road and was once part of Emmett Scott High School, a segregated black high school open from the 1920's until the 1970s. The high school closed because of state-mandated racial integration.

Since then, the city has made use of the school’s gym as a recreation center. It has programming six days a week, including a public swimming pool, camps for children, a boxing gym and sporting activities and classes for adults

Advocating for air conditioning at Emmett Scott has been an uphill climb, said local pastor and gym supporter C.T. Kirk.

“This is a victory for everyone.”

Kirk often has led the charge in asking the city to do something about the lack of air conditioning in Emmett Scott’s gym.

Last summer, he was part of a basketball fundraiser that packed the gym. The gym, participants said then, was sweltering.

“We’re looking forward to the next big basketball game,” Kirk said Wednesday. “This time with air.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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