New Volleyball Gym, Old Plant Space

The Gainesville Juniors Volleyball Club is a regular national contender, helping 80 of its players win college athletic scholarships, but it’s been without a home until recently. This fall the club began enjoying the benefits of a gym of its own.

The club rented 10,000 square feet in the Phoenix Commercial Park on U.S. 441 in Alachua for a fraction of the cost it would take for a new gym, says director Chad Davis. Creating the gym is part of the resurgence of the 300,000-square-foot business park, which once was a battery plant employing 1,500 workers.

“We began looking for space in February, and we got a lot of no’s,” Davis says.

That is, until Jerry Benton, the chief operating officer of Campus USA Credit Union and a member of the building group, stopped by the business park. The Hipp family, which owns the park, was eager to work with the club, the rent was low and the 27-foot-ceilings were tall enough for volleyball, Davis says.

Still, the club faced obstacles in converting the space from factory use to athletic facility. Parents of players and local businesses donated time and money. The club has collected $81,000 in pledges toward its $131,000 goal, says Howie Ferguson, a member of the planning group.

The club has built two volleyball courts and is planning for a third, Ferguson says. The 10,000-square-foot gym is available for other recreational uses. Volunteers did much of the work of creating the volleyball courts.

The volleyball gym meets a need for tournament facilities for various sports, Ferguson says. The gym also could help the Gainesville Sports Commission’s bid to bring the Sunshine State Games to the area, he says. “There is an appallingly low number of sports and recreation facilities in the Gainesville area.”

The club hosted its first tournament in September, with visiting teams from Tallahassee and Jacksonville, and more than 250 attended. More than 50 young women participated in its fall program, and more than 100 will be involved this spring, Davis says.

“We were renting or borrowing space in local gyms, but that was highly unstable and limited our ability to offer year-round programs,” Ferguson says. “This new facility provides many opportunities for the club to grow and opportunities to generate revenue in the community.”

“It was tons of hard work, but the transition of the space is unbelievable,” Davis says.

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