Opinion

Is new gym necessary?

South Pointe High School may need a new $2.4 million wrestling gym, but district officials can't justify an expenditure of that magnitude simply by saying South Pointe has to keep pace with Rock Hill's other two high schools.

The new gym would be a 12,351-square-foot building with seats for about 280 people, locker rooms and a concession area. It would replace an outdoor basketball court.

The gym would be used primarily for wrestling practices and competition, but it also could be used by cheerleaders and other athletes during bad weather. Principal Al Leonard's chief selling point is that the gym would allow practices to be spread out over time instead of being stacked in the evenings, with practice sessions that can last until 8:30 p.m.

Money for the new gym would come from interest earned on the $92 million bond approved by voters in 2005. Major projects from that bond are either finished or are wrapping up, so district officials are not worried that using the interest accrued would be a problem.

Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools both have three gyms. South Pointe has only two. But in tallying sports facilities at the schools, it is important to note that South Pointe has its own stadium on school grounds. Rock Hill and Northwestern share District Three Stadium, which is on Cherry Road, midway between the two schools.

A wrestling gym obviously would be well used at South Pointe. Both Rock Hill and Northwestern have strong wrestling programs, and South Pointe no doubt wants to grow its program, too. And the building could be used for other sporting events and practices, or even non-sporting activities.

But while Leonard and other district officials can make a good case for the wrestling gym, we would like to see this issue viewed in the context of broader district needs. Is this really the top priority and the best use of available money in the entire district?

Granted, the interest on the bond can by spent only on capital projects such as buildings and other physical infrastructure. It can't be used to defray the cost of recurring expenses such as teacher salaries.

But the school board took considerable heat for the last capital project it approved in September, $1 million for artificial turf and a scoreboard at District Three Stadium. Many people questioned whether the money could have been better spent on academic needs.

A plan to spend $2.4 million on another sports-related project is certain to rouse the same complaints. We wonder if board members have explored any alternative proposals for spending that money or whether it could be socked away for a rainy day.

If the board does approve the wrestling gym, members should be ready to explain why this project took priority over all other needs in the district.

IN SUMMARY

School board certain to face questions about whether wrestling gym is a priority.

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