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OPINION
June 1, 2020

3/4/2020 12:57:00 PM
Nothing but net!

It's like hitting a court-length basketball shot at the buzzer.

The news that the Friends of Historic Vernon has received a $41,000 grant to make much needed repairs to the heavily used Vernon
Gymnasium is more than welcome.

This is absolutely great news, not just for the Town of Vernon which owns and manages the gym, but the entire Jennings County area. The 79-year-old gymnasium is an extremely important recreational asset for the community's youth and adults alike, mostly for that great Hoosier sport of basketball and also for other activities such as volleyball.

The town rents out the gym, at the amazingly low price of $25 for two
hours, to people that just want to play basketball, for birthday parties and fund-raising events, for concerts and dances and even Halloween spookfests. There are three classrooms in the building, two of which are used for karate and self-defense classes, and a dance studio.

Another classroom is a museum with artifacts from the era when the facility was part of Vernon High School.

Basketball, though, is the main function of the facility, which also still serves area schools whose teams sometimes use the gym for practice sessions. Hoops has always been the top activity there since this small, and some might say cracker box, gym was constructed in 1941, though back in the day it also served as an auditorium with stage for the Vernon School.

It was because of basketball that the Friends of Historic Vernon was able to gain the grant, which is from the National Basketball Association All-Star 2021 Host Committee. That group was put together by the Indiana Pacers, which is hosting next year's NBA All-Star Game. Those grants were awarded to only 21 out of 182 applicants. Vernon's amount will pay for refurbishing the court's floor and installing new backboards and rims.

The Friends of Historic Vernon, a nonprofit group, was established seven years ago as a vehicle to provide more support for the town.
Vernon's town government operates on a shoestring budget, more literally than figuratively. In fact, the grant amount is half as much as the town's annual budget. With a population barely over 300, Vernon is a tiny municipality - the smallest incorporated town in Indiana - in the shadow of its younger and much bigger brother, North Vernon, a city of nearly 7,000.

When the town took over the gym following the closing of the Vernon School in the 1980s, it saved it from the wrecking ball. Much credit goes to retired Jennings County attorney and Vernon native Mike Rogers for that. He discovered information dating back to the town's 1815 founding by John Vawter that the property could only be used for educational purposes. When the school closed, the county government had proposed taking over the gym and converting it into a highway department garage. Rogers stepped in to prevent that from happening.

The Vernon Gymnasium could use more upgrades and the Friends of Historic Vernon is planning future events to raise more funds. In the meantime, the gym will get a much needed boost - just like hitting nothing but net on a court-length shot as the horn sounds.





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