Austin community rallies to replace dilapidated gym for Marbridge residents
Resident Mike Kolb raises his arms in triumph as team members Rene and Dorian Lopez congratulate him on winning the tournament.
A group of concerned individuals from business and government, as well as volunteers from the greater Austin community converged on the Marbridge campus on Saturday, June 23 to play a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the middle of the summer Texas heat to demonstrate the desperate need for a new facility. The “Old Green Gym,” as residents, volunteers and staff alike call it, has no heat or air conditioning.
Business leaders such as Bobby Jenkins and his son, Bo, formed a team with one resident to play other teams from the Austin Fire Department and the Austin Police Department and 10 other companies in an elimination-style tournament of five-minute games. Each team included a member of the Marbridge Special Olympics basketball team.
The tournament sought to underscore the conditions that Marbridge residents face when participating in athletic or fitness exercise. The old gymnasium houses an assortment of exercise and weight machines that consumes half the floor space. The remaining half serves as a practice court for basketball, or an exercise area for classes like Fit Ball. An assortment of vintage folding chairs occupies one back corner, which serves as a makeshift classroom when needed.
In the summer, human-size fans keep air circulating, and instructors call for frequent water breaks to help battle the heat. Some days, it’s simply too hot or cold, and classes are cancelled. Many electrical outlets quit working years ago, just like the antique air conditioning unit that still hangs forgotten in a window.
A fund-raising committee composed of business people, educators and professionals plans to build Victory Hall Athletic & Event Center on the campus to replace the Old Green Gym. The planned 18,000-square- foot facility will provide a full-court basketball arena and a stage for performances by visiting entertainers, as well performances by the Marbridge resident choirs and drama groups. Victory Hall will also include classrooms, staff offices and the Mike Parsons Wellness Center, made possible by donations from Carino’s Restaurants and the Parson’s friends and family. Plans for the facility include making it available for a wide range of uses by the Austin special needs community and other community groups.
Tournament signals extra push needed to qualify for a $100K challenge grant
To date, the committee has raised $775,000 toward a $2.5 million goal. The tournament is the final thrust in an effort to reach $900,000 by July 1 in order to qualify for a challenge grant of $100,000, which would provide enough money to begin the site planning studies needed to get construction underway.
Those who wish to support the effort to build Victory Hall Athletic & Event Center may mail donations to Marbridge Foundation, P.O. Box 2250, Manchaca, TX 78652, or donate now.