November 13, 2013

Panthers hope to thrive in new digs



"We have a tradition of excellence here," Pruner said. "I can't wait to play the first game in here. It'll be something special for the community. It makes me thankful for the administrators for doing this, the community members for approving it, and the construction workers that built it. But, it also motivates me to do my best."

The people of the Am-Po school district voted to approve a bond to build the new gym, among other renovations for the schools, in April 2012. Much of the gym's $4.9 million price tag is being covered by entities relatively new to the area that pay the bulk of its taxes: oil and gas companies.

"It's a big commitment from our patrons, because it passes onto them," Hance said. "Economic growth has helped tremendously. Out of 1,000 people that pay the tax toward it, the top 20 pay for two-thirds of it, and that's oil companies."

The old one was complete in 1957, and while it served its purpose well, and still does — Hance said it would still be used for events like the Grady County-wide tournament that Am-Po is hosting in January — there are issues. 

Since it's under ground, the gym is susceptible to flash flooding in the event that pipes fail to operate properly. There is also one, low-powered heater to keep the place toasty during the cold months when basketball is played. But more importantly, the new gym offers security that the old one did not in the form of a certified safe room that can fit 400 people comfortably. 

During a time when safe rooms and tornado shelters in schools, and how to pay for them, has become a hot topic in Oklahoma politics, Am-Po is ahead of the game.

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