Plans in works for $2.4 million wrestling gym

Rock Hill school officials may spend about $2.4 million to build a wrestling gym at South Pointe High School.

The money would come from interest earned on the $92 million bond approved by voters in 2005.

"We need an additional facility simply because of the number of athletes we have," South Pointe Principal Al Leonard told the school board Monday. "We're having to stack our practices in the evenings. This will allow us to have practices that are spread out over time."

Teams start practicing in the winter at about 4 p.m. and don't finish until about 8:30 p.m., athletics director Mike Drummond said. The wrestling gym could be used for wrestling, as well as cheerleading and other sports during bad weather.

Initial plans call for a 12,351-square-foot building with seats for about 280 people, locker rooms and a concessions area. It would replace an outdoor basketball court.

South Pointe has two gyms that can be used for practices. Rock Hill High and Northwestern High each have three.

It is unclear whether another gym was in the original plans for South Pointe. The Neely Road school has more outdoor fields than the other high schools, including a football stadium.

The school board is expected to vote on the wrestling gym proposal Feb. 25. The gym could be built within about a year.

'The same as the other two'

The proposed new facility would be the first major capital expenditure since the school board approved spending about $1 million on artificial turf and a scoreboard for District Three Stadium in September. That decision sparked widespread controversy about whether the money could be better spent on other things, specifically academics.

The Northwestern and Rock Hill football teams play at District Three Stadium.

Officials hope the gym won't cause old tensions to flare up.

"We have always been sensitive to equity in the three high schools as long as it makes sense to do so and this does," school board chairman Bob Norwood said. "I hope that folks will see it as trying to make sure that our three high schools have the same facilities."

But board member Jason Silverman said he is not convinced it will be that simple.

"If this passes, I would be very surprised if there are not some people in the community who find this to be an expenditure of the same ilk as the stadium turf and the scoreboard," he said. "I would be shocked if that didn't happen. On the other hand, what do you say to the parents at South Pointe who keep reminding you, 'You promised me this high school would be the same as the other two?'"

Silverman voted against the stadium turf because, he said, too many people opposed it.

'Not going to cause a problem'

Because the $2.4 million would come from interest on the bond, the money can only be spent on capital projects such as buildings, said John Hair, director of auxiliary services. The money could not be spent on recurring costs such as teachers' salaries.

Major projects from the 2005 bond are either finished or are wrapping up. Dutchman Creek Middle School and Mount Holly Elementary School, both scheduled to open in August, are the last two big projects.

"We feel pretty good that using this money is not going to cause us a problem anywhere else," Hair said.

Administrators at South Pointe requested the gym. Hair said he does not know of any similar requests from other schools.

Possible specs of the proposed wrestling gym at South Pointe

• 12,351 square feet

• 282 seats

• Indoor concessions stand

• 80 football lockers, 45 girls lockers

• Men's and women's restrooms

• Laundry, taping and office space

• $2,390,000 price tag

-- Blueprint, page 8A