Johnson City Schools is ready to hand the city the keys to the old Fairmont Elementary School gymnasium.
That move is the first step in the coming transition that could result in a new community center, city offices, the new home of the Princeton Arts Center, or yet unknown uses.
The general consensus has been that the city would, when the new school was built, use the old gym as a community center or to serve the community in some way. There was some talk about what the city might do with the building at last week’s joint Board of Education/City Commission Facilities Committee meeting. Some ideas were tossed around, including City Manager Pete Peterson’s suggestion that it would be a good home for the center.
“We could renovate it and it would be a great fit for Princeton Arts,” Peterson told committee members. “It may be a parks and recreation building. It may be used for offices. We just need to review this and see what its best use is.”
Princeton Arts Center, 2516 E. Oakland Ave., was established in 1986. The center serves as an artistic and cultural arm of the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Department and offers a variety of programs.
“I was told we’d be hanging onto it until we got the new school built and that it would be for community uses,” said Dave Chupa, Johnson City Schools’ instruction and facilities supervisor. “We just need to know who wants it,” he added jokingly. “I plan to turn the keys over to (the city), and they’ll look and see what its possible use is. When we were going through the construction process out there, the city manager ad commissioners began talking about possible uses. We really don’t need the space for athletics out there.”
The new 93,000-square-foot $14.3 million school opened Aug. 4. When that happened, Fairmont also opened its doors to a high school-size gymnasium. Before construction was completed, Chupa said the school system would now have three gyms; the new gym at Fairmont, the old gym at Science Hill and the new multipurpose facility on the Science Hill campus.
It’s expected that Fairmont’s new gym will be used by the high school for practices or other activities when its on-campus facilities are booked up.
Kingsport’s Building Systems Technology employees were inside the building Monday installing a new fire alarm system.
The old 4,800-sqaure-foot gym built in 1991 appears to be in very good condition. Its exterior is red brick, and there is no cracking or significant wear. Two large sets of double doors on the building’s south side, which have served as the two main entrances, open into small foyers. The building can be accessed by another set of double doors in these foyers, or by two more sets of double doors on the opposite side of the building.
The gym floor, while a bit smaller than a regular-size basketball court, is made of hardwood that’s in better-than-average shape. There is a small, raised stage at one end of the gym and a kid-size rock wall on the other. The interior walls are clean and were apparently painted recently.