Smithville basketball coach Greg Haynes saw the storm coming.
“I was standing at the back door when it came up,” Haynes said. “I could see the top of it. If that tornado had been 100 yards up that hill, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Haynes was alone in the high school building on April 27 as the EF-5 tornado destroyed the town. Less than 200 feet from him, the gym was flattened.
The baseball and football fields resembled nothing of the sort. Pieces of the football scoreboard were found 30 miles away in Tremont.
A year later, a new gym is in the works, but not for basketball only.
“The building will be used not only as a gym, but also as a storm shelter for the community,” said Smithville principal Chad O’Brian, a former Smithville hoops coach.
Smithville has been approved for a FEMA 404 grant to assist in construction of a monolithic dome that meets or exceeds all FEMA standards for near absolute protection during severe weather.
The facility will seat 800 for basketball and approximately 1,100 to 1,200 for other events.
Upon design approval from FEMA, bids will be taken to begin construction, a nine to 12 month process that should see the Seminoles in their new digs in the fall of 2013.
Last season’s baseball and fastpitch teams used borrowed facilities but have been home all this season. Full seasons have now been played on every field.
The off-campus softball field lost a dugout roof and had netting and fence damage and played the 2011 fastpitch playoffs on nearby Amory’s borrowed field. The baseball team borrowed Hatley’s field to complete the 2011 baseball playoffs.
Crews and volunteers worked to get the football field ready by Aug. 27.
The baseball team swept a pair of games as it returned to its newly constructed field on March 10.
Back home for the 2011 slowpitch season, the Lady Seminoles brought a Class 1A state championship back in October and will be on its field as a division champion a day after the one-year anniversary of the storm in the fastpitch playoffs Saturday.
The gym will complete the athletic restoration. Smithville loaded a bus last season and drove to West Amory Elementary to practice.
“No doubt, we’re excited,” Haynes said. “When you consider having a year or two years without a place to call your own, that’s tough. These kids have been real resilient, never heard any of them complain or fuss or even ask questions. They just do what they’ve got to do.”