Historic Conyers Street Gym temporarily closes
Ground was broken to build the Conyers Street Gymnasium in Covington in the 1930s, and more than 80 years later, the doors have closed — but not forever.
A recent inspection of the property revealed there was some mold, said Tammie Lovering, City of Covington’s Safety/Risk Manager. “We locked it down because we didn’t want to have any problems.”
Finding mold in the old building hadn’t come as a surprise, said Randy Conner, Director of Financial Services for the City of Covington. “The report just confirmed what we know.”
He said, because of the building’s age, mold, as well as asbestos and lead paint, were present. “Most of the problem will be taken care of when demolition is done.”
Conner was quick to point out that the demolition would not be of the exterior.
“It is in a historic district and it’s a historical building,” Conner said. “We would not be changing the exterior of the building, just the inside. The gym will stay, but it needs some major work. We’re still in the very early stage [and] the mold studies are part of the early stages.”
He said the restrooms need to be redone completed, and some walls and additions added in the 1970s needed to be removed. The windows will also need to be replaced with period windows.
“We want to have a clear picture of all the work that’s needed before bringing the project to the council for approval and funding,” he said.
He said the request for the funds to draw up plans would be made for the next budget year. “The council will review the project recommendations and once they approve the project, we’ll start looking in earnest at what grants are available to help with the renovations.”
He said there were historical preservation and even some recreation grants that may be available, especially for a building of that significance. “At one time, that was the elementary school for the city of the Covington. It does have some historic meaning to a lot of our residents.”
The closing of the gym, however temporary, has been a hindrance, “but safety is our primary concern,” Lovering said.
Hit hardest by the gym's closing has been the Newton County Recreation Commission. Used for basketball and volleyball games, the gym is also rented out by private schools in the county. Most do not have their own facilities.
“It’s an older facility. It has some issues, but it’s an important facility,” said Anthony Avery, Director of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
“Losing that gym is putting a little burden on us, but we’re working through it,” Avery said. “For our programs, we use it strictly during the basketball and volleyball programs, and we’re able to let the public use it for a fee.
“Losing that, we’re not able to rent any other facilities out — we have to have maximize the time at other facilities for the schools,” he said.
Once the mold remediation is completed, the gym will reopen. “We want to keep [the gym] as a landmark,” Lovering said. “It’s a great place.”
Over the next year or so, Conner said, “We probably won’t see any work other than damage control – there are roof issues that need to be taken care of this year.
“We’ve repaired a portion of the roof,” he said, “but probably the best way to fix it is to replace the whole thing.”
To maintain the integrity of the building, he said, water leaking in has to be stopped. Repairing the roof will also prevent further mold damage.