Like Martin Luther King once said “I have a Dream".
New Franklin also had a dream of building a new gymnasium back in 2002.
Although it took a few times to get the dreams to become a reality, New Franklin finally saw all of the hard work pay off on April of 2016 when a $3 million bond passed to build a new gymnasium adjacent to the old gym.
While a date to dedicate the gymnasium has yet to be etched in stone, New Franklin Principal Benji Dorson said hopefully the ceremony will be held before the first home varsity game on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
Needless to say the gymnasium won’t be the only new addition to the school. Along with a state of the art facility for basketball games, Dorson said the facility will also feature four boys and girls locker rooms, a concession stand and restrooms.
But let’s go back to 2002. Dorson said once the bond failed they took the gymnasium out of the equation. Then, in 2007, the New Franklin R-I School District passed the no tax increase to do improvements to the school.
“The original plans were to run the gym with a tax increase but once that failed we came back to the voters and said what about a no tax increase but still include the heating and cooling source for the middle school and high school,” Dorson said. “Of course the gym was taken off but we have been planning and thinking about this as early as 2002. Then, in 2016, we put it back on the ballot and it passed.”
Although the gymnasium itself was listed at $2,347,706, Dorson said the remaining money was help to pay for the dirt work, parking and safety to the school doors.
Curtis-Mans-Schulte (CMS) won the bid to build the gymnasium. However, Dorson said there were a few separate bids for bleachers, basketball goals and other things.
Dorson said there was also a lot of people involved in the process, starting with New Franklin Superintendent Dr. David Haggard, Athletic Director Ross Dowell, New Franklin R-I School Board and then the community.
Dowell said there were quite a few meetings with the community this time around about the new gymnasium.
“We wanted it to pass so we listened to the community and certain things they would like to happen,” Dowell said. “I think we had something like two forums. We went to the people and said here is what we are kind of thinking, what is your input, what is your feedback. What are the things you like, what are the things you want to see.”
Dorson said the biggest thing the community wanted to see is for the seats to have backing. He said they wanted seats for everybody in town.
As it turned out, the original plans went from having four rows of seating on the north side of the gymnasium to eight rows of seating. The rest of the seating on the north side will consist of bleachers.
With 11 rows total on the north side and 10 rows on the south side, which will be all bleachers.
Dowell said the board and administration also took numerous field trips to look at other gymnasium to get ideas.
“We had one field trip where we had five board members and myself go to 6-7 schools in one day,” Dowell said. “Benji and I have been taking pictures. I even have a video on the last time we tried to pass a bond of Sacred Heart and Santa Fe, which were both brand new. I also documented what they liked and what they would change with their gym.  We went to six schools just looking at the bleachers.”
Dowell said one of his favorites at the time was the Smithton gymnasium. He said a lot of New Franklin’s gymnasium is based off of Smithton.
Dorson said the reason for putting the new gymnasium on the ballot in the first place was because of the shape of the old gymnasium.
“That’s part of it,” Dorson said. “Part of it is a super facility need not just for basketball but as a classroom. “We had multiple hours of the day where we would have physical education classes, especially during the winter time that might not have a place to go. You might have a middle school and high school PE at the same time and only one gymnasium. The old gym was showing signs of things that it needed as well.”
Built in 1941, Dorson said the actual structure itself has had several remodels in the 80s. He said along with taking out the stage the wood bleachers were placed over the concrete bleachers.
Now with the addition of the two new locker rooms, which will allow for both the high school and middle school students to use, Dorson said the parking has also doubled.
“We have safety doors on the entire building now,” Dorson said. “We have made our ramps ADA compliant and now have all new sidewalks.
With a seating capacity of over 1,100 in the new gymnasium, Dowell said another issue was family bathroom; an area for a changing table.
“The community wanted to make sure that if we were building a facility that not only was it a facility that the town could be proud of but that it also reflected the history of the building that we currently have and that’s the reason for the stone,” Dorson said. “That’s the reason for tying all this in and making it look like its always been there.”
Dorson said the feedback has been 100 percent. He said everybody loves the stone and likes that they have kept certain things and the history.
“I would say it’s one of the finest facilities for a school our size that I have seen in the state,” Dorson said. “It’s going to be that nice. “We will still use the old gym for high school, junior high and elementary PE. Certainly it will be used every day in basketball season for practice.
“You have to take care of the facilities that you have and you certainly plan to take care of that. In fact, the plans are to play the tournament in both gyms and certainly this year because of the way New Year’s falls. It’s been kind of overwhelming but we tried to think of everything that we could think of and I believe that we kept just about everything that we wanted. The overwhelming feeling by everybody is that they are just so excited to get in there. Not only is it an awesome facility but just a lot of community pride that everybody got together and did this. I can’t think of one thing that we would change about it right now.”
Dowell had a better choice of words on the gymnasium.
“I think we hit the nail on the head,” Dowell said. “To me it’s exciting to get to have everybody in there and play. I don’t know how many tours I gave just myself during the alumni game last weekend. As far as what I like about the new gym, if I was coaching the six goals would be nice. As far as athletic director, my favorite part is the stain floors.
“We saw that in a high school in Iowa and to me it’s so much better than the paint. It took the wood differently and gave it a different tone look. As a teacher I would love the divider. We have two full courts going the other way now. The side goals are also made for intramurals so when we have our own little kid intramural games we can lower the goals to whatever.”
Another favorite by Dorson and Dowell are the new clocks in the locker rooms. Dowell said when the scoreboard is off in the new gym the clocks in the locker rooms will display the normal time. However during a game, Dowell said the locker rooms will display the time on the scoreboard. The backboards in the new gym will also have lighting to signal the end of a quarter.
But that’s not all. Dowell said there will also be wireless internet throughout, platforms for filming and closed circuit TV with its own camera that will be broadcast in the lobby.