Rusty Mercer will gladly surrender the advantage playing in the Civic Center gives his basketball Wardogs for a chance at getting a new on-campus facility.
“I truly enjoy playing games at the Civic Center,” Mercer said. “But everything else that goes with it is really outdated and an inconvenience for us. We've overhauled the locker rooms, but we have to share them. We keep nothing in the locker rooms on fulltime basis. It's not truly ours.”
The basketball and wrestling programs will be among those reaping benefits from a proposed $4.19 million bond issue set for public vote on Nov. 13.
The proposal features a 1,800-seat gymnasium, two practice courts, a band room, a choral room, an art room, a lecture hall and two conference rooms.
The facility will include 400 seat-back chairs, concession stand as well as two main and two auxiliary locker rooms and trainer and video rooms.
“We'll have one we can call our own - we won't have to live out of bags going gym to gym every day,” Miami girls' coach JohnCarl Morgan said. “We're really behind everyone in the (Verdigris Valley) conference.”
The facility would be on the south end of the current building, connected by a walkway.
“We really need extra practice gyms more than anything else,” Mercer said. “We can't even entertain the thought of adding a fifth- and sixth-grade program on down the line like a lot of people have. Finding enough gyms to practice in now is a challenge.”
The only gyms currently available are the Civic Center, the smaller-than-regulation court at the high school and at Will Rogers Middle School for the 12 basketball programs (boys and girls, grades 7 though 12) in the Miami system.
The shortage even extends to Northeastern A&M, which is without the NEO Fieldhouse following the July flooding.
The NEO teams had to practice Thursday at the Civic Center due to conflicts at the college.
“We're trying to do a sixth grade team this year, and when you look at the gym schedules, its puzzling as to when you can get into any gym,” Morgan said.
If approved, the bond issue will allow the MHS wrestling program to finally get its intended home - the basement area on the south end of the building.
A funding shortfall led administrators to drop plans for band and chorus rooms and move them into what had been designated as the wrestling area.
The wrestling program been located in the elevated area of the gymnasium for much of that time.
The Wardog wrestlers are one of only four Miami programs that play home matches at a school-owned facility.
The others are soccer (Ed Craig Field) and softball (Harley Turner Field) on the east side of the MHS campus, and the Will Rogers Middle School basketball teams.
“We are excited because we will be self-contained down in the basement with plenty of storage,” said wrestling coach Justin Gibson, whose first competitive match was in the MHS gym as a youngster. “We will get a shower and locker room down there. It will be really nice. That's what it was intended to be in the first place.”
Additional gym space would also be beneficial in staging the IBC Bank Mudville Duals, which has grown to 18 teams this year.
“Right now, I spend all my time cleaning up where guys go in and out of there with chairs on top,” Gibson said. “Everybody's storage is in there, too. It's hard to keep it clean. We'd be able to have matches in the (new) gym - we are excited about that.”
“It's not just a gym - that is just a minor part of it,” Morgan said. “The band room will be amazing. The chorus room will be amazing. It will benefit a lot of people.”
In addition to the bond project, the district also has plans for an all-weather track.
Plans for a soccer-football field also are in the works.