Fifty years ago, residents in this Wake County town came together to build a gymnasium.
Town meetings were once held at the space, which is now part of Rolesville Elementary School. Most recently, the town’s parks and recreation department has operated its winter basketball program at the gym.
But now the gymnasium will be torn down. On Tuesday, the Wake County school board backed a $18 million renovation plan for Rolesville Elementary School that includes the demolition of the gym.
School leaders asked Rolesville officials to take over the aging facility, but they declined.
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Now, leaders from the town and the school system will continue to meet to iron out the details of the plan, including where Rolesville will host winter recreational activities, said Mayor Frank Eagles.
“It’s a good situation in that the school system and school board want to work with the town to make sure we both end up with a win-win situation,” Eagles said.
The Rolesville Elementary School gym belonged to the community until it gave the space to the school system, Eagles said. Town leaders initially hoped to save the gym but it didn’t work out.
One option proposed by the school system was to give the gym back to the town. Meanwhile, the school would get a new multipurpose space.
School board members said the school system couldn’t afford to maintain an aging building.
“At some point you have to decide when it’s time to move on,” said school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton, who represents Rolesville. “We’re looking at millions of dollars to protect this particular gym. And it’s a gym that no longer fits the purposes of a modern elementary school program.”
Benton said a tour of the basement of the gym building shows there’s a threat of serious foundation issues.
“Nobody knows what it will take to remediate the drainage problems that are going on at that building,” Benton said.
Town officials said they did not want to take over the costs of maintaining the gym, which was built in the 1950s.
In 2002, the school system spent millions of dollars on the space. Improvements were made to the air conditioning unit and the roof, among other repairs.
The school system considered then, as well as in the 1980s, whether the gym should be torn down. The community swiftly responded, Eagles said.
Now, he said, it’s best to let it go.
“We recognize that the gym is a community icon, but it’s structurally in poor shape and somebody has got to spend a lot of money to bring it up to standard,” Eagles said.
Staff writer T. Keung Hui contributed to this report.