By Brandon Speck
SMITHVILLE – Smithville basketball finally has a home again. Nearly 21⁄2 years after an EF-5 tornado destroyed the Seminoles’ gym, Smithville will once again play a home game next month.
“Blessed is the word,” Smithville principal Chad O’Brian said. “It’s the first one of it’s kind in the state of Mississippi. I don’t think it will be the last.”
The $3.5 million project needs only a few finishing touches – expected to be done by Friday – before the first game against Jumpertown on Nov. 7. The state-of-the-art structure is a gym, multi-use facility and tornado shelter.
Smithville played “home” games at Amory two seasons ago and went on the road all of last season.
“They’ve been real resilient. They haven’t complained or fussed or anything,” said Smithville boys coach Greg Haynes, who was in the school that April 27 as the deadly storm passed right above him. “There’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s really nice.”
The dome is built to withstand winds of 300 mph – the walls are18 inches of brick and concrete, the concrete roof six inches think. It’s round form is shaped to prevent winds from latching on.
Equipped with Bose stereo sound and seven air conditioner/heaters in the gym, there are 600-plus chairback seat, plus a student/pep band section behind one goal.
Hand-crafted lockers are going in all four air-conditioned locker rooms.
The black-lined court with two-foot trim and maroon border is named after the late John Chrestman, a long-time Smithville coach and administrator, who retired in 2001.
“They’re really excited. They’ve been asking me everyday when they can tour the gym,” second-year girls coach Michael Wildon said. “It’s nice. I’ve been in a lot of gyms in my life. I don’t know of any other 1A that has stadium seating. It’s something we’re looking forward to.”
The Monroe County Tournament and the Division 4-1A Tournament are scheduled to be played in the gym as well.