The Ochoco Elementary gymnasium is back in use after a three-year hiatus.
Upon Housing Works' completion of its Ochoco School Crossing complex, which made use of the closed school, the Crook County Parks and Recreation District took over operation of the gym.
Addition of the recreational facility in early November culminated a process stretching back two years when the district first stated their interest in the facility. The organization was short on space and needed another venue for existing recreational program and to expand beyond what they had offered.
"Anyone who has lived in and been a part of sports programs in Prineville knows that gym space comes at a premium, and through the revitalization of the Ochoco Gym we hope to relieve some of that pressure," said Eli Tomlinson, CCPRD's recreation coordinator. "In addition to new sports programs, we hope to utilize the gym for new day camps, birthday parties, events and recreation classes."
So far, the district has been able to offer a dance acro class through High Desert Dance Arts at the gym as well as two-day basketball camp for third through fifth grades, and just last week, the gym was utilized for the boys fourth- and fifth-grade basketball program. Early next month, the district will host its annual Daddy-Daughter Dance at the gym, an event that has historically taken place in a small space at Eastside Church.
Prior to adding the Ochoco gym, the district relied heavily on its Pioneer gym, which has served as the local skating rink as well as home base for the basketball program.
"We didn't have a lot of wiggle room because in the winter when people want gym space, all of the gyms are taken, especially at the schools," Tomlinson noted.
He noted that Barnes Butte Elementary and Crook County Middle School had graciously offered use of their gym on occasion, but most of the time "we were nomads, wandering around using whatever space we could find."
With use of a new gym, not only is there enough room for existing programs, there is enough space to consider expansion of the activity slate.
"We are excited to move forward two highly demanded sports in 2019, indoor soccer and adult league basketball," Tomlinson said. "AYSO is one of the largest youth leagues in Crook Countym and through a vision brought forth by the league commissioner, Jonny Oelkers, we are excited to partner with and create the Prineville Soccer Club. Through this strategic partnership, we will be able to use the soccer program expertise of Jonny and the administrative personnel and function of CCPRD to create an indoor soccer program that meets the growing needs and desires of our community for a winter soccer program."
The district also plans to offer one open gym night per week, beginning in February. Adding more nights might be possible, Tomlinson said, if they can find a suitable volunteer to open the gym, ensure it is kept clean, and lock it up afterward.
Future plans might include offering the gym up for special event rentals. District leaders have already fielded requests from the Sagebrush Shufflers dancing group and from athletics teams in search of a place to host camps.
"We do at some point want to have it open and available to rent for parties because there aren't a lot of indoor spaces in Prineville that you can rent," Tomlinson said. "I don't know when that is going to come to fruition, but is something we have talked about."
So far, the majority of the feedback about the gym has revolved around its relatively unchanged appearance. Tomlinson points out that the facility has "the same old bleachers, the same floor and the same stage."
"For the most part, it looks just like it did when they shut the school down. I think there is a lot of nostalgic value for people who walk in there," he said. "We hope to keep the gym as original as possible."
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