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Porterdale's free concert in gym
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The city of Porterdale is looking to attract visitors to its downtown area with a concert in its newly renovated historic gym.


Main Street Porterdale and the Arts Association of Newton County will present a night of classical music as the Converse College Symphony Orchestra performs at 7 p.m. Oct. 12. in the Porterdale Memorial Gymnasium, across the street from City Hall at 2400 Main St. The event is free.


The Converse Symphony, from Spartanburg, S.C., will perform selections from Handel’s "Water Music" and other favorites.


Porterdale City Manager Bob Thomson said the gym renovation is nearing completion and should be finished in time for the concert. If there are glitches or the weather is uncooperative, Thomson said, the concert will move to Central United Methodist Church.


The 74-year-old Porterdale historic Gym caught fire Oct. 20, 2005. Walls and the center of the roof collapsed into the facility. Even though a $10,000 reward was offered, the cause of the fire was never discovered.

The repurposing of the open-air building cost an estimated $950,000, and is being paid for using proceeds from SPLOST. Thomson said the City Council decided to make the gym an open-air facility without a roof because it would have cost about $4.2 million to totally rebuild the structure, money he said wasn’t available.

Thomson said construction workers expect to have the historic gym’s floor completed early this week, either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"The courtyard is being paved right now. We expect to have a portable stage. We have no idea of how many folks to expect, but we’ve had a really good response," Thomson said. "A lot of folks are coming from different places," he said. "It’s probably, I would say, 80 percent complete, but people can get a good view of how it’s going to look and I think they will be pleased.

"Luckily, we’ve got a really hard-packed clay service that was specified by the engineer, over which the brick pavers are being laid," Thomson said. "They are probably going to be finished with the whole thing because they are finished with the two side areas, and they are about a quarter finished with the entire center area," he said. "The only concern we have is if the restroom partitions will be ready.’’

If not, Thomson said, portable toilets will be in place for concert-goers.

A very rainy summer put a damper on the project’s construction timetable, Thomson said. It was previously expected to be finished in May.

"The problem was, when you schedule something like this (the concert), of course you’ve got to plan months in advance, and arrange people’s schedules and that sort of thing. And nobody knew we were going to have monsoon after monsoon. But, again I think it’ll be a great event," he said.

"A lot of things are going on in Covington and Conyers, and we just haven’t had this type of opportunity for a long time in Porterdale," Thomson said.

"It’s free, it’s educational; a lot of people may not have been exposed to classical music. Some people like it, some people don’t. But it’s the kind of concert I think is accessible."

The city of Porterdale has future plans for using the restored gym as a venue for events such as weddings, receptions, picnics, reunions and concerts like the one being put on this week.

Thomson said the city hopes the building will be used at least nine months out of the year, depending on the weather.