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  • Ansley Puckett

What Happened With the Gym?

Shortly after parents filed out of the Holly Hill Academy gym with their children and their awards on the last day of school, some HHA staff and board members began ripping the gym apart.

The gym, which was the same since the beginning of HHA in 1972, was getting a much-needed facelift with new floors, paint, and beachers.

“For the past three years, the goal of having a new gym floor has been one of the top five projects for the Board of Directors,” Mrs. Brandy Mullennax said.

The floor would get brand new wood, the walls would get a fresh coat of paint, and the bleachers, which were as old as the school and hid years of trash, were replaced with composite and metal, filled in completely, and became motorized.

“The old gym had done its job for 40 years,” Coach Mike Nelson said.

As Coach Nelson, volleyball coach and PE teacher Dani Kern, and several other volunteers helped take the bleachers off the wall, they expected to be back in the gym by the end of summer to get ready for the new year. That’s not what happened.

Construction crews were set to begin shortly after summer started, but there was quickly an issue. After a series of project manager changes, the wood for the gym floor was sent to the school. The wood that was delivered had to acclimate to the temperature for three weeks. When it was time to start replacing the floors, Coach Nelson realized the wood that was sent was the wrong width.

“To have yet another set back was very frustrating,” Mrs. Mullennax said.

After the crew set to fixing the mistake and bringing the correct wood in, the project had already been delayed by a month and a half. As the summer progressed, it was beginning to look like the crew would not complete the project in time for the start of the school year.

Sports teams, including volleyball and the cheerleading team, had already been displaced all summer.

The cheerleading team practiced in the cafeteria, while the volleyball team either practiced outside or at the old Bowman Academy. However, because Bowman’s old gym did not have air conditioning, practice was often accompanied by the drone of large fans.

“It was a rough environment. Definitely not ideal,” Coach Nelson said.

Labor shortages and supply issues also delayed the completion of the project, and looking ahead before the project began, Coach Nelson scheduled the volleyball team’s first games as away games.

“The girls have persevered, and it just goes to show how hard they've worked,” Coach Dani said in regards to the team’s practice conditions and game schedule.

As the summer came to a close and the 2022-2023 school year was drawing near, HHA was running out of time to get the gym ready for classes, sports practice, and chapel. With the gym nowhere near ready, Mrs. Brandy Mullennax, Mrs. Susan Paramore, and Coach Dani began working on their backup plan.

PE class would take place outside, volleyball practice would continue to happen outside or in school hallways, and chapel was put on hold. Facing the challenges as they came was a group effort, and the lower school students also rose to the challenge.

“The kids were great,” Coach Dani said. “They couldn’t wait to get back in the gym.”

Finally, as the project came to a close, the volleyball team had their first home game Sept. 7. while the gym was still waiting on the logo. When the logo was added on Sept. 9, the gym floor was complete. However, some peeling on the logo will need to be fixed in the near future. Until then, PE and sports practice resumed in the gym.

“The product so far has come out beautiful and worth the multiple bumps in the road to have a beautiful gym,” Coach Nelson said.

On the week of Sept. 12, the lower school students were rewarded with their first dodgeball game of the year. As for the volleyball team, Coach Dani said they are relieved to finally practice and play in their home gym.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” Coach Dani said. “I want to say how much I appreciate everyone's patience. We needed a lot of it, but it paid off.”

Now, with the PE classes and sports team returning to the gym, Booster Club is working on the finishing touches to the space, including new state championship banners. The old banners will be sold, and funds will go to the gym floor project.

Booster Club is also selling plaques made from the original bleacher’s wood as a piece of HHA history. For those interested in buying a plaque or a championship banner, contact Sherri Swank.

“This project came to fruition with the help of all of our stakeholders; board members, parents, volunteers, coaches, Flagship members, and our PTAC,” Mrs. Mullennax said. “Through collaborative efforts, we were able to provide this much needed upgrade for our students that we hope will last for the next 40 years.”

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