By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Community leaders gathered at the new Police Athletic League on Douglas Street Wednesday to celebrate the completion of renovations that turned the old Salvation Army gym into the new PAL facility.
“It’s good to finally be here. The last facility was so small we could really only do one thing at a time,” Sgt. Michael Russell, PAL executive director, said of the facility on Robert E. Lee Drive.
“On a full day here we can have something going in the community meeting room, the basketball gym, boxing room, weight room, batting cage and on the field outside.”
Russell, along with Police Chief Tony Carleton, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and members of the Tupelo City Council and Police Athletic League Board of Directors, cut the ribbon in the facilities basketball gym.
After cutting the ribbon, Carleton recounted the story of Reed hitting a game-winning three-point basket in that very gym when it was operated by the Salvation Army.
Because of that story and in honor of his early support for PAL and hard work to get the facility completed, Russell and Carleton revealed a plaque outside the gym’s door naming it the Jack Reed Jr. Gymnasium and gave Reed an honorary PAL jersey.
The building was purchased by the city for $225,000 from the Salvation Army and then renovated for about $490,000 according to Russell. He said the cost of a similar facility to be built from the ground up would have been between $2 million and $3 million.
“The great thing about this building is that it wasn’t built from scratch so we brought life back to a residential neighborhood and to a building that most people in Tupelo recognize,” Russell said.
Inside the gym, just past the three point line, an X with Reed’s signature is painted on the basketball court where the alleged game-winning shot was made.
After the ribbon cutting, Reed donned the jersey and attempted to recreate the shot. He made the three-point basket.
“Think of the lives that will be changed here of kids being mentored by police and playing basketball with police until they’re too tired to do anything but go home,” said Reed, who was the founding president of the PAL board of directors. “We have Boys and Girls Club Northside and Haven Acres and now this is a facility right in the middle of town, in a neighborhood, for after school, weekend and nights.”
Jason Shelton, mayor-elect and PAL board member, talked about how important a resource like PAL is for the youth of Tupelo and promised continued support of the program. He also noted the last two mayors have come from the PAL board.
PAL programs will begin at the new facility Monday.