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Renovations rejuvenate venerable McKeesport gymnasium

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McKeesport's basketball court is getting renovated.

McKeesport’s venerable basketball court is getting a facelift.

Neenie Campbell Memorial Gymnasium will look different when the Tigers girls team opens the 2014-15 schedule with its annual Tipoff Tournament, welcoming Baldwin, Obama Academy and West Mifflin to the two-day event Dec. 5-6.

“They’re hoping to have it available for us in time,” McKeesport athletic director Charley Kiss said. “We’re excited.”

The upgrade, which includes new touches to the locker rooms and sound system and the installation of a new hardwood floor, is part of a bigger reconstruction project at Founders Hall on the McKeesport campus.

In addition to the replacement floor, Kiss said there will be freshly painted logos. He added that backboards and rims with a winch system to take them up and down and bleachers also are included in the renovations.

“There were some issues that were resolved within a reasonable nature,” Kiss said. “Nothing extravagant, just some things to better serve the kids.”

The locker rooms were expanded to include a co-ed athletic training and meeting room, while the existing sound system was enhanced to include baffles, which temper excess noise. Kiss said no changes were made to a scoreboard installed in 2005.

“It’s a really hard building to communicate with the kids,” he said. “The room has a steel structure on top, so we feel the improvements made will help with the accoustics.”

McKeesport girls basketball coach Eric Smith said he doesn’t think the improvements will alter the unique atmosphere of the gym, which houses one of the largest courts in the WPIAL and was built in the mid-1920s.

It is named after former McKeesport boys basketball coach Cornelius “Neenie” Campbell, the school’s all-time victories leader.

“There are a lot of people from my regular-season games to summer league games and AAU tournaments that are stopping by from all over that love that gym. They love the way it feels.

“With the new work being done, it’s still like an old-school gym with a new feel.”

The size of the court — roughly 94 feet long — gives it a small college-sized atmosphere, Kiss said.

“It really does have the same feel because it still has a lot of the original features, like cinder-block walls,” he said. “I think people are going to love it even more.”

Kiss called the gym the main athletic centerpiece of the school — there is an auxiliary practice gym adjacent — and lauded the district’s administration for its handling of the project.

“I give our people credit for keeping us involved here with the decision-making process,” Kiss said. “We’ve had direct access with the kids, and we know the facility well. We’ve been happy with that aspect of it.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].

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