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Hundreds of residents who gathered for the grand opening of the new Orangeburg Community Center Gymnasium on Friday were greeted by a huge banner above the welcome desk that read: “It starts in Parks! Welcome! Thanks for your support!”

The 28,000-square-foot facility features two regulation high school basketball courts that can be transformed into four youth basketball or volleyball courts.

“We can run two adult games or four youth games or four volleyball games simultaneously, which could support a great tournament format,” Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said.

Additionally, the building has two multipurpose rooms that can be used for small exercise classes, meetings and senior groups.

A large parking lot at the rear of the building will serve as the main parking area for the new gym. It is also designed to serve Mirmow Field. The front parking area will be utilized primarily by the disabled and for drop-offs and pick-ups.

“We want to make sure we have adequate parking for our elderly and handicapped persons,” Butler said.

The facility also contains a concession stand with vending machines, a lobby and seating areas.

Following the ribbon-cutting, citizens were served a light breakfast, which included muffins, fruit, nutrition bars and juice.

The gym will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesdays will be a special day for seniors, with senior programming from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., but other members of the community are also welcome on Wednesdays.

The facility will be open to the public from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. Rec play will be scheduled from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, with the Adult League playing from 4 to 8 p.m.

Rec play will be scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m on Sundays, with the Adult League playing from 5 to 8 p.m.

These hours are tentative and subject to change, officials said.

Butler said he’s excited the citizens of Orangeburg came out to appreciate what has been accomplished for them. The new facility was built with funds from the capital projects penny sales tax. Construction of the gym began a year and half ago.

With taxpayers’ money making the new gym possible, the mayor noted, “We are giving something back to the community.”

“I’ll be more happy when I see it utilized to its fullest extent,” he said.

Butler thanked residents for their patience and also those before him who were part of the building process.

“Citizens, please utilize the gym and keep it safe,” he said.

City Councilwoman Sandra Knotts said she was like a kid at Christmas and extremely excited about the grand opening of the gym that is located in her district.

“I see this area transforming, and this is the beginning of it,” Knotts said.

“The possibilities are endless for what we can do right here at the gym other than just the recreation part — more community involvement and getting the community to know that we are here,” she said.

Knotts noted she was excited that the facility will serve as a needed resource for citizens.

“If they want to come exercise, that will be available for them. (The gym) is not just focused on young folk and the basketball and volleyball leagues, but just a multi-use facility for our community,” she said.

Orangeburg Parks and Recreation Director Shaniqua Simmons said she was happy the official opening day had finally arrived.

“Now that the day is here, I’m excited to see that so many people came out to support this project,” Simmons said. Garden City Preparatory School brought their students to tour the new facility.

Simmons said she is most pleased about seeing the youth participate in activities at the city gym.

“I’m also looking forward to community members coming up and saying, ‘Hey, can we get a Zumba class?’ or just people coming and asking us what we can provide for them,” she said.

Providing a good quality of life for the community will help produce good citizens, Simmons noted.

“We also want people to know that Orangeburg is progressing. We are moving forward. We do have things to attract people to our town,” she said. “This new gym is just one of those things.”

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Administrator John Yow said the city is appreciative of everyone who played a part in the grand opening of the gym.

“I just hope that the community is really pleased with what they see and I hope that the community uses it,” Yow said.

Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said it was a great day in Orangeburg — city and county — because the new gym will give children a place where they can stay active.

“I’m looking for the city gym to pull everyone together — not only the kids, officers from the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety and officers from the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office,” Ravenell said.

SaiQon Jamison, one of the young people attending, said he looks forward to coming to the city gym to play when he gets bored.

“I can’t wait to shoot around and have something to get out of the house (for). Everyone can come out to shoot hoops and exercise. It’ll be fun,” Jamison said.

Stella Amaker, an Orangeburg resident, said she was glad to have been alive for 65 years to witness the opening of the facility.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’m just glad to be here, come here, fellowship with other seniors and watch the young basketball players play,” Amaker said.

“I’m gonna try to be here every day — every day — to witness this!” she said. “It’s a great day in Orangeburg!”

Upcoming special events at the city gym include:

March 11-13 — Young League Tournament

March 19 — Youth Basketball Clinic

March through April — Adult League

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Contact the writer: princess.williams@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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