City razes former Knights of Pythias building to make room for youth center expansion

BUCKHANNON – With the former Knights of Pythias building on Main Street now torn down, Stockert Youth and Community Center board members have started planning the specifics of the new multipurpose gymnasium with engineers from Potesta and Associates.

The Knights of Pythias property was purchased by the city as part of a long-term plan to expand the youth center.

The board met with Dave Sharp with Potesta and Michael Mills with the Mills Group in Morgantown to start discussing features of the new building during their Oct. 4 meeting.

“I wanted to introduce them to the board and for the board to start throwing ideas out there — what this building’s going to be, what you want it to be — so that we can start working towards some sort of design and get this thing off the ground,” city Director of Public Works Jerry Arnold said.

Arnold noted that previous designs for the building do not apply anymore because they were planned before the city purchased the Knights of Pythias property for the new structure.

“With the acquisition of the Knight’s property, it’s a total game-changer for our previous plan of a steel structure building and doing everything on the cheap, so I just wanted them to come to the meeting, introduce themselves, get familiar with the board, and then moving forward we can start working on a design and get some numbers together,” Arnold said.

SYCC board member Don Nestor said he hopes the planning process moves quickly so the building can come together as fast as possible.

Don Nestor and Pam Bucklew

“I think we want to move ahead pretty quickly, so we can share our thoughts and get your guys’ thoughts on how to proceed,” Nestor said. “We can go anywhere from a basic gymnasium that you could split into two and have a couple games going on at once, or we could add other rooms.”

The city and board have been fundraising for years in anticipation of the new gym.

“We need to determine the funds that we have and see how far we have to go from there, and where we need to search for those extra funds,” Nestor said. “I think that makes a big difference.”

City recorder Randy Sanders said it’s important to determine SYCC’s ongoing and reoccurring needs.

“Stockert is busting at the seams — it has a waiting list for certain programs, and they can’t take any more students for after school because it’s booked,” Sanders said. “The question is, what else do they need, space-wise, footage-wise, to be able to serve more members of the community — young and old — to make our program more successful and more inclusive?”

Debora Brockleman, director at Stockert Youth and Community Center, said a larger space would allow more children to participate in programs.

“The number who kids we have for after school and summer camp is based on square footage, so per child we have to have X amount of space,” she said. “The more space we have, the more kids we can offer programming to. If you have more programming, you do have to have more employees, but to be able to do our basketball program we need to have our own space, because we have too many kids involved and too many games on a Saturday borrow someone else’s space.”

Brockleman detailed the problems they have experienced trying to use the Buckhannon-Upshur High School gym.

“If the high school has a makeup game or something else comes up last minute, all those parents and children need to be contacted, so that’s a big deal,” Brockleman said. “There are all kinds of different programs that we could do with more space — our karate program would love to have a tournament but our little gym is too small.”

Several SYCC programs simply don’t fit in the existing gym, she added.

“For example, our drill team can’t practice at the same time because there’s not enough room in the gym,” Brockleman said. “If it’s nice, they can go outside, and we even have them in the cafeteria, which is known as a multipurpose art room/cafeteria. We have put up the tables and they come in during the basketball program. We also don’t have a place just for the cheerleaders, because they can’t be with basketball, they can’t be with the drill team, they can’t be with karate or the kickboxing.”

She said a concessionary stand, seating and restrooms would be essential and possibly a full kitchen to offer cooking classes. The board decided to schedule a working session to discuss all the details of the new building Thursday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!