By John R. Schirmer
Toting cameras and offering suggestions, two representatives of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program visited the old Lockesburg gym July 7 to tour the facility and discuss plans for its restoration.
Ralph Wilson and Brian Driscoll met with UA-Cossatot Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole and other officials for an update on efforts to restore the gym, which opened in 1952.
“It was a good meeting,” Cole said Monday. “Ralph and Brian were impressed with our goals. They saw no problem with the restoration.”
One goal is to have the gym listed on the Arkansas Historic Register. To make the list, “We have to prove local significance,” Cole said. “I don’t think that will be a problem. Ralph and Brian will be instrumental in making sure we qualify.”
Cossatot owns the gym, the old high school building and nine acres of land around the structures, Cole said.
The school plans to renovate the gym for use by UA-C and the community. Renovation of the high school will be the next project after the gym is completed. Cossatot also wants to move the truck driving program to the old Lockesburg campus, according to Cole.
UA-C plans to restore the original entrance and lobby. The building will be handicapped accessible, Cole said. The gym floor with the Blue Darter logo will be cleaned and preserved. Vice Chancellor Mike Kinkade said the floor and bleachers “are in remarkably good condition.”
Cole also wants to keep the stage on the south end of the court for college and community events.
“They love our plans,” Cole said of Wilson and Driscoll, who listened attentively and snapped pictures during the gym tour.
“We will try to stay true to the time period,” Cole said, while adding improvements such as LED lighting and air conditioning. Those items won’t affect the building’s historical value, according to Cole.
The preservation program is “more concerned with major areas inside and the exteriors. They want it to be time period specific,” Cole said.
UA-C has received financial assistance for the project, the largest amount a $175,000 grant from ANCRC. “They saw this as a great project,” Cole said.
The 1952 gym replaced the original building constructed in 1950, according to Cole. The first gym burned down, he said.
“We know what we want to do with the gym,” Cole told Driscoll and Wilson. “We want to make sure our ideas go along with yours. We want it to look like 1952.”
That plan includes the Blue Darter basketball trophies, team pictures and senior class composites, Cole said.
Unlike many older buildings, “There isn’t an asbestos problem here. There’s some in the window putty, and that’s all. We can take care of that,” Cole told the guests.
The renovation will begin as soon as possible. Cole said the target date for completion is June 30, 2017. “We hope people will appreciate it,” he said.