Ocean Springs gets a gym of its own, maybe two
OCEAN SPRINGS -- The city is getting a gym of its own.
That's what all the wrangling has been about for two years.
Ocean Springs has wanted to take over the former Taconi Elementary School gym from the Ocean Springs School District so city recreational sports, like basketball and volleyball, will have a place to flourish.
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The school district insisted the city take the whole Taconi complex -- 22 classrooms, offices, a cafeteria and the gym.
Thus the wrangling.
They finally came to terms and the school district ceremoniously turned it over on Friday. There was no cost for the city to receive the school and gym, but there are about $10,000 worth of maintenance issues that will need addressing..
The school district closed it as a public school several years ago and allowed Head Start, the YMCA after school program, and later, Excel by 5 to use the space for free. The city rented the gym for $5,000 a season and paid to have the floor resurfaced.
Even though it aimed for a gym, the city is excited to have the whole complex, Mayor Connie Moran said. The school district is glad to contribute and to no longer be a landlord.
School Board President Sue White sees more opportunities for city kids to have fun outside of school.
It's a nice fit with the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center, Moran said. The city owns the whole block now, or most of it.
Moran sees an arts and recreation complex in the future, something that will attract people to classes of all kinds. For now, the current tenants are welcomed to stay, even though the city will begin charging rent by the end of the summer.
The city is focusing on the gym and what it can do for citywide recreational sports.
"We used to have 400 children in our basketball program. It has dropped to 206," Moran said.
City Parks and Leisure Services Director Geri Straight told the mayor she expects that number to increase, now that the city has a gym year-round.
The city will no longer have the $5,000 gym-rental cost and can put that toward the upkeep. There are issues with windows, a water pipe, electrical outlets, toilets, sinks and emergency exit lights.
The school system is ripe with gyms -- two at the high school, one at the middle school and one at the upper elementary -- but they remain booked by school sponsored teams, leaving nowhere for city sports.
"We've been desperate for a gym," Moran said.
The city even considered going in with FEMA for a federally funded $3.5 million storm shelter that would double as a gym, but city aldermen said the obligation, upkeep, insurance and federal requirements would have cost the city too much on an annual basis. That plan was abandoned in the last year or two after the city spent $285,000 in engineering and prep costs.
In the meantime, Alderman at-large Bobby Cox has been heading a team to renovate the old Armory building in downtown for a gym that would accommodate kids sports and senior leagues. That one may be complete within the year.
So a city crying for one gym may soon have two.