published Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Old Pikeville Elementary School gym gets new life

Bledsoe Little Blue Football and Cheerleading organization volunteers Vince Pendergrass, Bryan Simmons and Jim Swafford talk Friday about the work needed to get the now-exposed concrete floor of the old Pikeville Elementary School gymnasium ready for indoor sports practice.
Bledsoe Little Blue Football and Cheerleading organization volunteers Vince Pendergrass, Bryan Simmons and Jim Swafford talk Friday about the work needed to get the now-exposed concrete floor of the old Pikeville Elementary School gymnasium ready for indoor sports practice.
Photo by Ben Benton.

PIKEVILLE, Tenn. -- A local youth sports association hopes to revive the arch-topped old Pikeville Elementary School gymnasium as an indoor practice facility for its local youth sports and, possibly, a community center.

Jim Swafford of Bledsoe Little Blue Football and Cheerleading in Pikeville said the old gym has lots of space, a relatively good roof and an open, level floor.

Initially, the work will be for an indoor football and cheerleading practice area.

"We will put in batting cages so that youth baseball and softball have a place to come in the off-season," Swafford said of later plans.

He said Little Blue volunteers would like to see the building become a community center for activities of all kinds.

So far, more than two dozen volunteers have pressure-washed bleachers, covered broken windows, fixed holes where birds were getting in, washed away bird feces, cleaned old cots used by homeless people who had taken up residence in the building from time to time, and painted over graffiti, according to Swafford.

Little Blue volunteer Vince Pendergrass said the facility would be a boon to ball players as soon as it's ready.

He and Swafford said that a few years ago the group had problems finding a good place to practice, and the only building in the county that really shined as a solution was the old gym.

The group approached the Bledsoe County Board of Education this spring with the idea of using the building in exchange for a cleanup and tending to it on an ongoing basis.

"They were tremendous. They didn't bat an eye," Swafford said. "We made a small presentation, and they unanimously agreed to it."

Swafford also said County Mayor Bobby Collier and mayor's office manager Sue Colvard have been instrumental in getting debris from the cleanup hauled away, but the project otherwise is entirely volunteer driven.

There's still lots of work to do and a completion date is not certain, but the gym could be usable for some activities as soon as the floor is in good shape, Swafford and Pendergrass said.

Jack Roberson, Bledsoe County Schools' maintenance director, said the building's condition was growing worse and new caretakers couldn't come at a better time.

"Any type of improvement on that building would be great," Roberson said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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