COLCORD - A small slice of basketball hell is about to finally be done away with.
In 1998, The Oklahoman ran a piece called "Basketball Hells" showcasing the 10 worst high school gyms in the state.
Of all the gyms in the state, the one in Colcord topped the list.
Over a decade later, a new home for Hornet basketball is finally under construction. The concrete base of the new structure has been completed, with the walls of the new gym soon to go up. Officials at Colcord schools hope to have the new building ready for graduation in May.
Ask Colcord superintendent J.D. Parkerson what the new gym will mean to the athletic programs and the school at large, and the former football and wrestling coach tears up.
"I'm kind of emotional about it," Parkerson admits. "I can't predict what it's going to do for our teams, but it's the right thing to do for our kids. I think our kids are as good as anybody else's and they ought to have good stuff just like anybody else. The fact is, it's the right thing to do."
The new gym resulted from a bond issue passed by Colcord voters last August. Parkerson, who has been superintendent at Colcord since July 2008, said that after bond issues failed to be passed by voters twice in the mid-2000s, momentum was nonexistent.
"When I got here the board was in agreement that we had tried it twice and it had failed. Times are tough, economy's bad, we're just not going to try it again. It simply died at that point."
But following successful bond issue votes in similar communities across the state, board member John Dunn began the process to try again during a board meeting.
"He noticed that there were several big bond issues around the state that passed," Parkerson said. "It just evolved from that conversation at a board meeting."
The bond issue was eventually put on the ballot for a third time and this time the school board and administrators took followed a different campaign strategy.
"The board made the decision to turn the entire campaign over to the patrons of the district," Parkerson said.
"They felt that if the parents who had kids in school and who had an actual stake in the community were the ones out there pitching the idea, it would have a better chance of success. I think that had a lot to do with why it passed, because it was their neighbors and friends and people they went to church with were the ones out there selling it."
Sandra Copeland was appointed the head of a campaign committee that included parents, teachers and coaches. Their work resulted in the $2.65 million bond issue passing with over 65 percent of the vote.
"They made the difference," Parkerson said.
In addition to the bond issue, which netted the school $1.9 million, Colcord also received a Qualified School Academy Bond, a part of the federal government's stimulus package. Applying for that bond was the work of local citizen Larry Ellis.
"That kept us from having to use any of the school's general funds," Parkerson said.
Notorious for its lack of size, poor sight lines and crowded seating conditions, the current gym is so old its actual age is open to debate. Best estimates are that it was constructed in either 1955 or 1956.
"It depends on who you talk to," Parkerson said.
The new gym is part of a makeover at Colcord schools. The school recently used a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to renovate and remodel interior portions of the high school.
"We were fortunate to get that," Parkerson said. "It's allowed us to do some really great things. The difference between then and now is night and day."
Parkerson hopes the new renovations, with the new gym as the centerpiece, continues the improvement the school district has made in recent years.
"We've made some strides. We hope that [the new gym] will instill more pride, that the kids will work harder, play harder and get more support from the community."
And they'll get to say goodbye to a slice of basketball hell along the way.