By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
The mothballed pool next to Kokomo’s Memorial Gym could become the new home court for Indiana University Kokomo’s basketball and volleyball teams, thanks to a partnership between the university, the city of Kokomo and Kokomo-Center Schools.
Tentative plans are in place, pending KCS board approval, to turn the long-unused pool into a college-regulation basketball court that also could accommodate large meetings and special events. Fans would come into the facility through a new entrance off Superior Street. Signs will point crowds toward the “IU Kokomo gymnasium,” Kokomo city officials said in a press release.
“Memorial Gym events currently bring thousands of visitors. IU Kokomo athletics is attracting a new set of visitors to Kokomo who attend college sporting events,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said. “This partnership between IUK and Kokomo-Center Schools will enable our community to host more athletic events.”
“IU Kokomo has graduated 10,000 students,” said IU Kokomo Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke. “Eighty percent of these remain in the Kokomo area. As our campus grows, we want to ensure our students have a positive collegiate experience in order for our graduates to consider staying here.”
Goodnight said credit for the idea goes to KCS Superintendent Jeff Hauswald. Hauswald said he had KCS operations director Mike Wade look into the logistics of converting the pool into a basketball court after learning of IUK’s plans to host home games at a variety of Kokomo venues this year.
“This project provides IU Kokomo with a permanent home for all of their indoor athletics,” Hauswald said. “It’s a win-win partnership that will attract more athletics to Kokomo and help renovate and preserve a local landmark.”
Goodnight said the city will enhance adjacent pedestrian approaches by adding crosswalks, street lamps and wider sidewalks, as well as creating some green space near the planned entrance on Superior.
The city already has done considerable infrastructure work near the gym this year, adding median “islands” along Apperson Way and narrowing traffic lanes to slow cars through the area.
Hauswald said he is hopeful the KCS board will adopt the project at a board meeting yet this month.
The deal is contingent on IU Kokomo signing a long-term lease for the facility. The school would fund the conversion work, he added.
IU Kokomo athletes would be able to use the new facility to practice in as well, Hauswald said.
“They would be the primary users and have priority over the facility,” he said.
Work could be completed by the end of the upcoming summer season.
“If they have large events, they could spill over into the Memorial Gym,” Hauswald said. “It gives us all more options.”
Goodnight said the reuse is consistent with his policy of downtown development, and of reusing buildings rather than tearing them down.
“This is a re-purposing of an existing building, which is part of our administration’s philosophy of reusing existing buildings, and it’s a nice new addition to our community,” Goodnight said.
Scott Smith can be reached at (765) 454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org