A passion project has come full circle for Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford Jr.
On Wednesday, Tedford’s 20-year vision for a recreational facility became a reality when The Gym at Venturacci Park opened.
The grand opening featured members of the city of Fallon, Churchill County and several hundered members of the public. Tedford and Churchill County Commissioner Carl Erquiaga cut the ceremonial ribbon and each gave a short speech about gym and what it will and can bring the community.
The gym, however, will be christened at 5:30 p.m. today as the first annual Cinco de Mayo 3-on-3 basketball tournament tips off. The tournament is fundraiser for the Fallon Chamber of Commerce and organized by the chamber, the city, the county and Naval Air Station Fallon.
The grand opening, though, was a day of celebration as the 12,800-square foot, $1.3 million building with a capacity of 827 was presented to the public for the first time.
“I was very excited about the dedication today (Wednesday),” Tedford said. “It was a long time in the making and just a dream of having a gym for the community to use.”
The grand opening featured free tri-tip sandwhiches cooked by the Fallon/Churchill Fire Department, free candy and drinks at the snack shack and children playing volleyball and basketball.
In addition, Tedford and company secured a basketball shooting machine, which pumps out balls at a steady rate, for the facility. The gym also has two scoreboards to go along with a glistening floor.
Another perk of the building is free access to a wireless Internet connection.
“It seems like everyone is just as happy about it as we are,” Fallon councilwoman Rachel Dahl said. “Everything good that happens in Fallon, everyone works together and pitches in.”
As for the hours of operation for the facility, Tedford said the city and county will “play it by ear.” Scheduling will run through Valerie Swirczek at city hall (775-423-3040), but Tedford said for the time being, scheduling will be similar to the Oats Park Gym.
“Maybe we’ll change it later, but we don’t have a plan to do anything differently,” he added.
Tedford, Dahl and city councilman Bob Erickson could not thank crews enough for the time, effort and work put into preparing the gym for the grand opening. Ground broke in May 2012 and crews put in massive efforts the final several months to make sure the building was ready.
“A lot more in-kind work had to be done by city crews,” Tedford said. “They really, really did an awesome job. We’ve had several people here for the last several months of intense work by them. They went way beyond the call (of duty) to get this job done.”
Dahl echoed Tedford’s comments and said the dedication of the crews was impressive.
“Just driving by here to go home every night, they were here and they were here early in the morning,” she said. “What they did in the last week to get this ready was amazing.”
Ideas have swirled throughout the various entities about the possibilities for the gym. With the courts and floor space, which can be configured five different ways, the obvious target is regional youth and perhaps high school sporting events.
In a previous interview, Tedford and City Engineer Jim Souba said events such as prom, weddings, funerals and other community functions could be possible.
“We are excited about it from a tourism standpoint,” Dahl said. “But really, the practical part is that you can’t get any gym space. Everything is full in this community, which is great, but now we have one more venue to use.”
The gym contains two basketball practice courts, one premier court in addition to three practice volleyball courts and one premier court. The wood is covered with high-quality oil-based sealant and the center also features bathrooms, a lobby, a concession stand and mezzanine level. A shoe-cleaning machine lies in the lobby to prevent damage to the new floor.
The glass basketball backboards and bleachers were transplanted from Churchill County High School after the Elmo Dericco Gym was renovated during the summer.
In addition, Tedford said the west side of the new facility is expandable, and the center could grow in size in the future. According to City Engineer Jim Souba, the west wall was designed to be removed to add 2,500-square foot sections.
Carpet is another feature of the center as an effort to reduce noise. Large sections of carpet will cover the walls on the east and west sides of the gym, also allowing for some give should someone run into the wall during an activity.
“I think it’s just going to be fantastic for the community,” Erquiaga said. “We just haven’t had anything here to use, other than Oats Park Gym, which is a half-size gym.”
The city and Churchill County partnered, and with matching funds from the Community Development Block Grant program, were able to secure the funds required to break ground. The CDBG grant was for $350,000 and the two local entities covered the difference.
“It’s a great asset to the community,” Erickson said. “Everybody had to stretch a little bit to get it done, but it’s something that will serve the community forever.”