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Porterdale Gym restoration finally under way

Workmen Ed Thelen (front) and Chris Lawrence of Precision Contracting began clearing the debris left in the wake of the 2005 fire which destroyed the Porter Memorial Gym in order to prepare for construction of an open air facility. The new facility will be used as an open-air public space for exhibitions, shows and other events. It will also be rented out for weddings, reunions and the like. - Staff photos by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Workmen Ed Thelen (front) and Chris Lawrence of Precision Contracting began clearing the debris left in the wake of the 2005 fire which destroyed the Porter Memorial Gym in order to prepare for construction of an open air facility. The new facility will be used as an open-air public space for exhibitions, shows and other events. It will also be rented out for weddings, reunions and the like. - Staff photos by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

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The Porterdale City Council will hold a public ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon Saturday to officially kick off the construction of the new facility which will utilize the existing gym walls that will be strengthened to support a roof should the funds become available in the future.

PORTERDALE -- The first step toward a project that has been eight years in the making, was taken Monday when workmen began clearing debris from within the walls of the old Porterdale Gym.

It is the first phase in the plan that will turn the old facility into open-air event space. The clearing work, expected to take two weeks, is being handled by Precision Contracting of Braselton, owned by Mike Geer.

According to Porterdale City Manager Bob Thomson, the refurbished facility will be a public space and "if the weather is nice, it could be used for art exhibitions and we do expect to make some revenue from it by managing it as a wedding venue."

It is set to be open for operation in June.

Thomson said once the debris from the fire which gutted the building in 2005 is removed, more than 130 truck loads of fill dirt will be brought in to bring the floor from the basement to ground level.

"Then we'll start on the flooring which will be pervious so it will drain and we will strengthen the walls which will be braced sufficiently so that if a future city council wants to put a roof over it, they can if funds are found in the future," he said.

Estimates for a roof to cover the facility have been as high was $2 million.

Porter Memorial Gym, a centerpiece of the town of Porterdale, was built as a gift to the city from Oliver and Julia Porter, the owners of Bibb Manufacturing Company. The facility was built with wood floors and wood bleachers that could seat as many as 5,000 people. The structure was vacant and in need of repair at the time of the blaze that destroyed it in October of 2005.