Take a drive on Route 54 through Montgomery. You’ll not encounter a red traffic light to impede your journey. However, the lack of such operational hardware may cause you to miss one of the community’s crown jewels tucked away along the roadway, similar to a family heirloom that you know is valuable, but rarely trot out for public consumption.
After five years of planning and construction, late last month the Montgomery Area School District proudly held an open house for its newly expanded athletics and community center extending the green light for its residents to ‘come on in.’
Located adjacent to the high school football field the Center was first opened in 2002. The newly christened facility is now truly a ‘community center’ all of Montgomery can be proud of.
“When the facility was first opened it was used for all of our high school girls’ and boys’ basketball teams,” athletic director Mike Snyder explained while providing a guided tour of its impressive offerings. “We also had a community membership, which for $5.00 a year gave individuals an opportunity to walk the track and use the weight room. Altogether there were 50-75 yearly paying members that mostly used the indoor track for walking exercise during the colder months of the year. It wasn’t what we wanted, so that led to the plans to expand the facility.
“Those decisions were led by our Superintendent Daphne Bowers and the school board with an eye toward hosting some district events. They wanted to improve the space we had to serve food and have concessions with a seating area for patrons. The PIAA had expressed concerns regarding dressing room facilities for game officials. We now have an expanded and improved concessions area. The officials’ locker room is probably the best one in the area, which includes six individual changing rooms, a shower, sink, and it is all climate controlled to adjust to their needs.”
Ryan Solomon, a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, was hired in July as the facility’s event coordinator. Next week’s column will detail his involvement.
In detailing Solomon’s hiring Snyder explained the school district was looking for an individual whose organizational skills were very sound and could help take the facility to another level in terms of what it could do for the community. Equally important was the ability to interact with all of the district’s sports teams, be a role model and teach them what it takes to be successful.
“Since the new addition has been added, we have grown our membership tremendously. The first night at the grand opening in two hours we sold 75 memberships. The response from the community has been great, and I think everyone is excited about what we can do here,” Snyder added.
For the Montgomery athletic teams, the new facility enhances opportunities for future events Snyder detailed.
“We have a boys’ basketball tip-off tournament to begin the winter sports season. We will be having a girls’ basketball Christmas tournament. The best way to grow your athletic department, to grow your individual sports, is to give them opportunities in their backyard. So with the tournaments, we are bringing in, together with both out-of-season and post-season things, various clinics to develop players’ skills are all kinds of things we can now host here in Montgomery. We are giving our kids opportunities to grow both physically and mentally.
“Residents of Montgomery can avail themselves of the facility’s various components for a $5.00 a month membership fee. A family can join for $8.00 a month. It is a fraction of the price individuals would pay for comparable programs in the area. We are a small community and the school district is a very important part of Montgomery. We want to make this community center a hub of activities for those who live here.”
Asked about having the facility available for non-Montgomery residents Snyder explained they intended to cater to the local community first.
“We wanted to see the response and see what kind of attendance we were going to get. We do have guest passes, so our members who have children or grandchildren or friends living elsewhere who might want to come in and utilize the facility can do so. Guest fees are also available for $5.00.”
Included among the facility’s amenities is a golf simulator and plans are underway to establish a winter golf league for Lycoming County High School teams. Golf activities may be expanded to include a retirees’ league in the morning and an open golf league in the evening. Individuals outside the Montgomery community would be able to participate via payment of a $5.00 fee.
“Montgomery has every reason to be proud of this facility. I’m very proud of it. The support of the administration and school board has been great, and it is something that has excited me. We want to take this and grow it and make it a model. The goals for the district and the way they have gone about creating this facility and allowing not only our student-athletes to use it, but our community, I think is something a lot of the small schools in the area should do. Being able to offer this facility to our residents is something that no other district is doing. That excites me.”
We are all familiar with the plight of ‘the Little Engine that could.’ When confronted with the request to pull the train up the mountain that other larger engines failed to do, it did so with its refrain of ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,’ turning to I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could, when the task was finally accomplished.
If that Little Engine is looking for a resting place, try settling in Montgomery. They understand your spirit.