FARMINGTON — Cam Sennick and Corine Dingley are 17-year-old seniors at Mount Blue High School.
They are also respective members of the Cougars boys' and girls' varsity basketball teams, who along with the boys' and girls' freshmen and junior varsity teams, are displaced this season due to the lack of a gym.
The old gym was torn down this summer with the expectation that its replacement would be ready for use next month. That, however, fell through due to construction delays and last month's accidental collapse of steel joists and one wall.
On Wednesday night during an informational meeting in the cafeteria in front of about 40 parents, students and school officials, Sennick, of Wilton, and Dingley, of Industry, via her mom, Laurel Dingley, shared insight into the problem of finding a reasonable venue for home games for RSU 9’s roughly 65 hoops athletes on six teams.
The current proposal is to travel to Livermore Falls High School. Those students are playing their games at Jay High School following the merger of both districts.
It has a capacity for 850 people with equally adequate parking and existing concessions. However, teams and/or fans would have to be bused from Mt. Blue to Livermore Falls at $100 per bus for each game.
For teams only, that's 16 games multiplied by $100, Athletic Director Todd Demmons told the crowd.
Additionally, practices three to five times a week could be scheduled for four different venues, tacking on additional mileage and time spent on the road that could instead be spent on homework, Sennick and Dingley said.
They said they would rather practice and play in the district at Academy Hill School in Wilton to keep mileage and fuel costs at a minimum for their families and fan base.
“I would really, really like to play at the academy,” Sennick said after thanking the administration, parents, community members and coaches for striving to find a remedy that works for all involved.
“It means a lot to me as a student athlete to know that there are so many people here that are willing to help, that are trying to do what they can for us as a team in coming up with a court to overcome these obstacles.”
Drawbacks to using the Wilton school include limited seating capacity at 250 people and parking, to temporary concessions that would need to be set up and taken down at each game.
Seating could be increased to 550 people if the side of the bleachers that has been condemned is removed from the stage area and four five-row by 15-foot wide bleachers bought, Jim Bessey, boys varsity basketball coach, said.
That could cost from $15,600 to $19,600. However, free installation has been offered by a local contractor, he said.
In talking to Wilton business owners, parent Lory Zamboni of Wilton said they'd love to have the economic boon that comes with hosting Mt. Blue high school hoops games.
Additionally, parking is available at the nearby Cushing School and in the Nichols Building lot which has 800 parking spaces, but would require shuttles.
If the Livermore Falls venue is chosen, parent Beth Evans of New Sharon said it would cost $100 per week for gas per vehicle.
“For many of us, it was hard to hear that we were not going to have our own gym,” Laurel Dingley said, reading her daughter Corine’s prepared statement.
Dingley said if they are forced to call Livermore Falls "home," it would mean walking into a gym colored in green and yellow.
“But the hardest thing to hear was my own grandmother saying she would not be able to make it to my games," she said.
"This is my senior year — the last year she has to watch me play basketball — and she might not have that opportunity.”
“Playing at Wilton Academy means a lot to all of us and I hope that you will realize this and make the right decision," Dingley said.
That decision is expected at the school board meeting Oct. 25.