Jackson County

Ocean Springs is 'fixing to have a good youth center' with help from Seabees

Old Ocean Springs Armory becomes a youth gym

Gulfport Seabees use their skills to help Bobby Cox and others volunteers to turn the old city-owned Armory on Pine Street into a children's gym for basketball, volleyball and events on a shoe-string budget.
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Gulfport Seabees use their skills to help Bobby Cox and others volunteers to turn the old city-owned Armory on Pine Street into a children's gym for basketball, volleyball and events on a shoe-string budget.

OCEAN SPRINGS -- Bobby Cox and volunteers are turning the old city-owned Armory on Pine Street into a children's gym for basketball, volleyball and events on a shoe-string budget.

It's been a long process, more than a year of work, and Cox, the city's alderman at-large, said Wednesday, thank goodness for the Seabees.

Lt. Matt Catanese and a crew of five or six with the NMCB27, a Reserve Support Site, showed up last week, worked over the weekend and this week and moved the project forward rapidly.

These guys have the skills, Cox said.

"They are a construction battalion. That's what they do," Cox said. "You don't have to tell them every little step. They've given the project such a boost."

They tiled the entrance this week and worked in the back rooms. Wednesday they were drilling the basketball goal posts. Their skills range from plumbing to electrical.

Catanese lives in Ocean Springs, though he hails from West Virginia. He said he likes working on a project to benefit the city.

"Things like this is what the United States is all about," he said. "No financial gain, a project for the kids, to get them off the streets."

The gym has a youth-sized court and will have an epoxy floor painted in city colors by a local artist.

But Cox sees it being used by all ages, the older kids can use it for basketball practice and the goals can be raised for adult play.

Cox and others held a fundraiser for the building in the fall of 2014 and raised $12,000. That's been the primary budget, with donations of time and some equipment from the Boy Scouts, private contractors and other volunteers. The county and city have also pitched in. But volunteer labor had dwindled in recent months, to just Cox and Gary Nobel at times.

Those two have been married to the project. And Cox said it has taken a lot of nights and weekends.

But with the Seabees' help, they have started to see daylight.

"We're fixing to have us a good youth center," Cox said. "I can't wait to see the first little basketball gave played."

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