Five weeks from Saturday is the grand opening celebration of the new Gina Cox Center on the campus of Lonoke High School.
Currently, the inside of the arena is taking shape as most of the seating has been installed. The court, including the jackrabbit logo, is painted and ready. The two main baskets are in place. The portable stage has been delivered and the temporary side goals are also in the arena.
Painting is continuing in the lobby area and dressing rooms. Work is also continuing on the cafeteria area of the arena.
Lonoke boys basketball coach Dean Campbell is excited about the prospects of playing in the arena this season.
“To be part of the last games, if not the regular-season last game in the old gym, and to be part of this new facility, it’s exciting,” Campbell said Tuesday morning. “It’s a great opportunity for our incoming seniors to be a part of something new, hopefully part of the legacy of the new facility.
“I think the excitement isn’t just on campus but I think it’s community wide.”
The arena was made possible following the pledge of $1 million by Jim and Gina Cox Wiertelak.
Gina played basketball for the Lady Jackrabbits, graduating in 1977.
The voters in the Lonoke School District approved a millage increase to pay for the Gina Cox Center during a special election in May 2011. In fact, 74 percent of 800 votes cast were in favor of the arena. Ground was officially broken on the project in March of this year. The arena will seat 2,000 for basketball and volleyball. Graduation will also be held in the arena each May.
“There is no doubt that Jim and Gina’s donation is huge,” Campbell said. “You can’t talk about the facility without mentioning their names. There was an extreme push and extreme confidence in our community wanting this facility. That was certainly stressed when you saw the results of the voting and how lopsided it was.
“It’s definitely a community-pushed facility, something they can definitely be proud of.”
The grand opening is set for Saturday, Aug. 10, at 3 p.m. The Gina Cox Center will open at 2:30 p.m.
“When Aug. 10 rolls around, people are going to be able to see the full scope of what the Lonoke community wanted and deserves and needed all at the same time.”