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South Arkansas Community College is receiving a grant from the Arkansas Natural Culture and Resources Council to do work on the gym on the West Campus.

The $691,140 grant will go toward a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, a new floor for the basketball court, new goals and a score table to be added to the stands. Vice President of Finance and Administration Dr. Carey Tucker said the HVAC system will account for the majority of the grant along with the floor as the second largest amount.

Tucker said the college plans to put the project out for bid in July, which will give a better idea of a timeline for the work, but the goal is to have the project done by next summer.

While SouthArk’s new men’s and women’s basketball teams will use the court for practice and regular season games, that isn’t the whole reason to be doing the project, Tucker said.

“Yes because that’s a focus — we want the basketball team to be able to practice and play on campus,” he said. “But it’s also a multifunctional facility. We use it constantly for other activities.”

The building is also used by other youth teams in the area, SouthArk President Dr. Barbara Jones, and it has been used for dance classes in the past but with the new floor coming in she said they’ll have to be careful with it.

The renovations would bring the court up to standards for regular season games, but would not be able to meet the standards for tournament games since the court is a little bit too small.

“We can play some of our games there,” Jones said. “And we hope to because we want to be able to bring people to campus. We also want to get our students engaged. That’s even part of the effort for basketball is student engagement and making more of a full college experience. Not just the players, but the other students and faculty and staff. To bring them together in that kind of environment.”

Looking down the road, Jones said there’s the possibility of looking into cheerleading, which would use the space for practice as well as opening the door to other sports such as volleyball since the court would be up to standard for that as well. Jones said those don’t have to be NCAA sports, but could be intramural or clubs.

“We’ll have a better court and better floor and the HVAC working well to make it more conducive,” she said.

The building was first constructed in 1940 by CADM Architecture Inc., who Tucker said is the architect for the project. The building is also on the National Register of Historic Places, added in 1978.

The beams in the building, Tucker said, are solid wood and curved, which is a complicated process and when it was built was a new process with that being the first building in the state to have them done using that process. It was also a Works Progress Administration project, he said, which was created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 as a way to help the country pull itself out of the Great Depression.

“We’re just thankful to the ANCRC,” Jones said.

Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or mshine@eldoradonews.com. Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.

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