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Gina Cox Center grand opening is Saturday

This sign designates the Lonoke girls volleyball locker room. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)
This sign designates the Lonoke girls volleyball locker room. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

The grand opening celebration of the Gina Cox Center is Saturday.

Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. with the program set to begin at 3 p.m.

The Gina Cox Center is a multipurpose facility, which will house a 2,200-seat arena, a new high school cafeteria and new high school band room. The facility is named for Gina Cox Wiertelak, who, along with her husband Jim, donated $1 million towards the construction of the facility.

Lonoke Superintendent Suzanne Bailey will give the opening remarks. The Lonoke High School Junior ROTC color guard will present the colors.

Remarks will be given by local leaders, including State Rep. Walls McCrary, State Sen. Jonathan Dismang, Lonoke Mayor Wayne McGee, Lonoke Banking Center president Allen Evans, Lonoke Chamber director John Garner, former Lonoke superintendent John Tackett and former Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits coach Jody Musgrove.

Lonoke School Board president Darrell Park will also speak, along with remarks from the Wiertelak family.

The Lonoke High School band will perform the alma mater.

A tour of the facility will be available following the ceremony.

The arena will be home to the Lonoke basketball and volleyball teams. For the past several years, the Lonoke volleyball teams, coached by Laura Park, played their games at the middle school. The Lady Jackrabbits will be the first team to play an actual game in the Gina Cox Center when they host Jessieville in a benefit scrimmage game Thursday, Aug. 22.

Park said Gina Wiertelak’s mother Jessie is from Jessieville.

“The very first event to take place in the Gina Cox Center will be against a team where her mother’s hometown is,” Park said. “It is just something that worked out. We’ve always gone there to play it. We had already decided that they would come here this year. Now, we’re going to get to have that match in the new arena.”

Park said that getting to play in the Gina Cox Center is hard to put into words.

“It’s such a nice facility and it’s so good for the kids and athletes who get to participate in there,” she said. “Words pretty much can’t explain it.”

One aspect of the Gina Cox Center that Park said the volleyball team will enjoy is having their own dressing rooms.

“They are excited that they are going to have a dressing room of their own,” Park said. “At the middle school, the PE kids all had to use it. Now, we’ll have a place to call home. They are going to have to have their own lockers. They aren’t going to have to worry about other people coming in and out. It’s almost a sense of belonging and a sense of ownership, which I think is great for them.”

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