Local professionals, volunteers and residents gathered between walls and under the sun to commemorate small-town history and celebrate future opportunity in Porterdale Wednesday afternoon.
The Porter Memorial Gymnasium, located at 2201 Main Street, Porterdale, is officially re-open for business after a ribbon cutting and open house May 8 marked the first time the building has been used since a 2005 fire damaged much of the infrastructure.
“I still remember it like it was last night,” said Kay Coggin, president of Friends of Porterdale.
Renovating the gym was Coggin’s brain-child. Together with other gym revitalization committee members, the Friends of Porterdale have raised more than $60,000 toward the cause. About $28,000 was donated last year for the plaque outside, the new stage and two renovated back rooms, and the rest will be put to use in coming projects, Cogging said.
“I grew up here, and it was the center of activity,” Coggin said while standing in the newly refurbished and decorated bridal room. “I just hated to see these historic places done away with.
“They don’t teach kids about history anymore. Young people need to know the history of their area.”
Bob Thomson, Porterdale city manager, and Teri Haler, Porterdale Main Street manager, said most of the items bought to furnish and decorate the rooms were on sale or found online, including antique doors, cabinets and a couch. Thomson said they wanted the gym to look nice and be accessible for a variety of events while not creating too much of a cost to the city.
A 16-foot-deep by 32-foot-wide wood stage was built, equipped with an accessible ramp, for events to be held at the gym. Thomson said the original bid for the stage was for a concrete structure to be built for $50,000, but the wood installation only cost $6,500.
The new gym will used as a private event venue and a hopeful revenue source for the city.
“It won’t be what it used to be,” Coggin said, “but it can be so much better, and I think it’s on the way.”