Supporters, patrons celebrate cool air at Rock Hill's Emmett Scott gym

adouglas@heraldonline.comAugust 3, 2013 

A newly-installed air conditioning unit rumbled softly as 7-year-old Zion Brown bounced into the gym at the Emmett Scott Recreation Center in Rock Hill on Saturday morning.

The little boy – who says he wants to grow up and be like Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James – has been playing in the city-owned gym three days a week for the past two years.

Until earlier this summer, the gym didn’t have adequate cooling.

Last August, nearly two dozen of the gym’s supporters took their plea for an air-conditioning system to Rock Hill’s City Council.

The gym is the only remaining structure that was once part of the Emmett Scott High School, a segregated black high school open from 1952 until the 1970s.

When the school closed after state-mandated racial integration, the city of Rock Hill took over the facility. The city has since used the gym as one of its four recreation centers.

The Emmett Scott gym is the oldest facility among the city’s recreation centers and, for decades, it was the only one without air conditioning.

Zion’s mother, Amelia Brown, said she worried about her son and the other children playing in the gym before the air-conditioning system was installed.

“It was shocking to see that this facility did not have air,” she said.

Several months after gym supporters lobbied city leaders, Rock Hill’s parks, recreation and tourism department paid about $60,000 to install air conditioning.

Josephine Jordan, a graduate of Emmett Scott High School, was instrumental in convincing city leaders to install the air conditioning.

She was one of many people who spoke to city leaders about the facility’s historical significance and meaning to the Rock Hill community last summer.

Gym supporters also presented the city with a petition signed by about 350 people asking for air conditioning at Emmett Scott.

On Saturday, Jordan strolled into the cool gym and said she and others were elated that the facility will be more comfortable for the children who enjoy the center’s after-school and summer programs.

“This time last year, it was unbearable (in the gym),” she said.

Amelia Brown said she is thankful, calling the cooling system a “blessing” for her son and everyone else using the gym.

Zion, a member of the center’s “Legends” basketball team, said he’s happy, too.

He held a pair of scissors and cut a ribbon at the gym’s entrance on Saturday, signifying what supporters called a “rebirthing of the gym.”

Supporters thanked city officials, local pastors, the Rock Hill Scott-ites, the Emmett Scott Advisory Committee and York County Councilman Bump Roddey for working to bring air conditioning to the building.

Proudly wearing his Emmett Scott “All-Star” team t-shirt, Zion said the best part about the morning’s celebration ceremony was that it was cold inside the gym.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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