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A.L. Memorial

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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Rare are the occasions when the Highland Lady Rebels are playing that the undivided attention of their fans is not solely focused on the happenings on the hardwood.

However, Nov. 9 was one of those rare occasions.

And you really can't blame the Lady Rebels' fan base for being a little bit distracted.

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While Highland was busy battling the Mammoth Spring Lady Bears in the opening game of the first annual Highland Classic, many in attendance simply could not keep their eyes from wandering up and down and all around the amazing new A.L. Hutson Memorial Center.

Replacing the 672-seat John A. Cooper Memorial Gymnasium, where Highland played from 1964 until last year, the 2,140-seat A.L. Hutson Memorial Center was filled with basketball fans and just plain curious members of the community the second week in November.

And the general consensus of those in attendance on day one?

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Wow!

That seemed to sum things up nicely.

A casual walk through the main entry on the upper level of the facility is breathtaking, offering a panoramic view of all things red and grey.

The shiny new basketball court is emblazoned with Rebel mascots on both sides of the floor.

The sightlines, whether standing on the walking track that winds around the entire upper level, or from the spacious seating sections that surround all four sides of the court, are uncluttered and open.

The facility is also complete with a therapy room, hospitality room and a weight room, in addition to offices for the coaching staff and locker rooms for the players.

If you get the sense that the A.L. Hutson Memorial center has it all, you're correct.

But there was one thing missing during the Center's grand opening week.

One big thing.

"My biggest regret in this whole situation is that Mr. Hutson is not here to see it," said Highland School District Superintendent Ronnie Brogdon. "He would have been in hog heaven, watching games in this place with a big smile on his face. I would rather have had to name it the A.L. Hutson Activity Center instead of the A.L. Hutson Memorial Center. Mrs. (Regina) Hutson came close to seeing it, she passed away last summer, but she knew we were going to name it after Mr. Hutson, so that was good."

As big a fan as A.L. Hutson was, of not only all things related to the community and the Highland School District, but all things related to sports, there is little doubt that he would have been in "hog heaven" in the impressive building that now bears his name.

And according to Brogdon, other than that, everything else is thumbs-up for the A.L. Hutson Memorial Center.

"I think everything's working out great as far as the activities," he said. "A couple of things that happened Sunday afternoon (during the open house) and Monday (during the first day of the Highland Classic) really convinced me we did the right thing by calling this an activity center. Because the community chorus sounded wonderful in there Sunday afternoon, so they'll be able to have their activities in there when they want to do that. And then Monday afternoon when the band played the national nnthem, it was out of sight. I was standing on the upper level at the far end when they were playing and it sounded really, really good. So, not only is it going to be good for ballgames, it's going to be good for concerts and other activities, so I was tickled. You never know how something's going to work out until you have a trial run, so I think it's going to work out wonderfully."

While John A. Cooper Memorial Gymnasium certainly saw its share of exciting events over the course of its 40-plus years of nightly use, there was no doubt that a facility like the A.L. Hutson Memorial Center was needed in Highland.

"Ever since I've been superintendent, 10 years, we've talked about an activity center. There was a lot of talk between the board and myself and a lot of planning that was done," Brogdon said. "So finally we put it into the district's facilities master plan. It was actually in the plans to start it a year later than what we did, but we felt the timing was right for a millage increase. So we petitioned the facilities division to move it up one year and they allowed us to do that. And our patrons were so gracious to pass a 1.7 mill increase to help us build this facility, so that's how it came to fruition."



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