New Verdigris arena nearing completion

PROGRESS PHOTO / KEVIN GREEN

Construction workers continue work on the Verdigris Activity Center on Monday, Dec. 23. The venue is set to be completed by Tuesday, Jan. 28, just in time for Homecoming.

VERDIGRIS – A golden moment in Verdigris High School history is expected to arrive in late January with the opening of the $11.2 million Verdigris Activity Center.

Superintendent Mike Payne said the facility is hoped to be completed by Jan. 28, when the Cardinals boys and girls face Hilldale, followed by the Jan. 31 Homecoming games against Miami.

“We will have more than 2,000 seats, but we will also have a mezzanine and a lot more space for standing room,’’ Payne said. “We wanted to lay the courts in December, but we got delayed with all the other stuff that had to be done first. We want to do things right. We don’t want to rush and do it hurriedly. We want to make it be the best it can be.’’

Payne said plans for a state of the art arena were born when the school opened in 1998, but other buildings came first. Finally, the time was right for the Cardinals basketball and volleyball teams to move into the future.

“We’ve had to practice at two different gyms at

different campuses and kids had to take the bus back and forth,’’ Payne said. “The new gym will eliminate travel, and the community can see our teams play in one place.’’

Payne said an open house for the community to tour the facility is possible on Jan. 20. Basketball and volleyball invitational tournaments are also in the works.

“It’s exciting, isn’t it?’’ said Mike Buntin, co-athletic director and girls basketball coach. “We will have one of the nicest buildings in the entire state. We’ll have the opportunity to practice

(basketball) during volleyball season. There is already a volleyball tournament set, and we have the intention of having a basketball

tournament in January. We already have commitments from three schools (with five spots left).’’

The Class 4A 2019-20 regional tourney is possible this February with regional and area tournaments for lower classes likely in the future. A stage will be in the building, suitable for plays, band concerts and graduation ceremonies. A large

hospitality room will also be available.

Buntin said plans for Cardinal Night are in the works for this February.

All boys and girls players from grades 7 to 12 will be introduced and perhaps an alumni-varsity basketball game will be played.

“This will be a boost and a positive for community morale,’’ Buntin said. “It will be a reward for our players for what they’ve done. Now they will have a showcase facility.’’

Payne said the bulk of the work has been done on the building with the court to be installed the week of the opening game. Work is still to be completed on the sound system and scoreboard, among other things.

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