RICHWOOD, W.Va. — It’s going to take a sustained effort from many different players to continue the rebuilding and renewal efforts in the Nicholas County town of Richwood, but they took one big step Tuesday afternoon with the grand reopening of the Big Red Gymnasium adjacent to Richwood High School.

“It helps keep the students in the community,” Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick, Nicholas County Superintendent of Schools, said Tuesday. “It allows for sporting events to be played, the basketball to be played, at the gym in Richwood so the residents do not have to travel very far.”

The restoration process will take approximately seven weeks when everything is finished, but the gym is expected to be ready to use when girl’s basketball tryouts begin in early November.

“The kids have tryouts here November the 7th, and it will be ready,” Tony Mamone, a general contractor and owner and founder of The Pinnacle Group, said Tuesday.

Photo by Alex Wiederspiel

Jim Justice (center) and others officially cut the ribbon on the Big Red Gym.

The Pinnacle Group began working on the restoration process September 21 at the behest of Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice through his organization ‘Neighbors Loving Neighbors.’

“It all derived from him,” Kacey Patterson, project manager for Neighbors Loving Neighbors, said. “It was an idea that was composed from him, and it just kind of went from there and grew.”

The damage caused by the June 23 floods is going to lead to the closure of Richwood High School and Richwood Middle School. Without this gymnasium, basketball participants would have been commuting to Summersville, which is about 25 miles away, for practice and games.

“It was a mess,” Mamone said. “I mean, picture it. The Cherry River is right behind us. It came through here.”

Mess is hardly the word anyone is using now.

“This is where I went and played when I was in high school,” Richwood High School boy’s basketball head coach J.B. Miller said. “They are even fixing my locker rooms where I dressed. Hopefully my son and daughter and my other son will have the opportunity to play here. Hopefully, one of these days, if the school comes back to Richwood.”

Dr. Burge-Tetrick said she has received no official decision in writing on the future of Richwood High School and Middle School, but that the community and the school system is now operating under the assumption that the schools will remain closed.

“We are looking at different locations,” she said. “We are conducting feasibility studies, population studies, and things like that.”

Mamone, who’s company is based in White Sulphur Springs, said he jumped at the chance to do this job.

“This is a great community,” Mamone said. “This is the heart of West Virginia. It doesn’t get any better than these people right here, and we wanted to come help. It’s been our pleasure to come and help them.”

He hopes, though, it will be used by the community as a whole for more than basketball.

“We just want it to be a great place,” he said. “Not only for the kids to play ball, but for this community to come and have events. This is one of the few things that is new and pretty. It smells good. They can come here and have a good time.”

Photo by Alex Wiederspiel

The entire gymnasium, including scoreboards, were renovated thanks to efforts by Neighbors Loving Neighbors.

While Justice, Mamone, Dr. Burge-Tetrick, former WVU head coach Don Nehlen, and many others joined the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Kacey Patterson wanted to offer praise to those who some of the heavy lifting.

“Hats off to the guys: the carpenters and the painters,” he said. “Some of them guys are never mentioned. If it weren’t for them, this would have never happened.”

“I mean it wasn’t just the workers that was here,” Patterson added. “The community was constantly coming over and checking and offering to help.”

For the man tasked with coaching the team of teenagers who just watched the town battle through a natural disaster, it means a lot.

“Probably the world considering we went from having a pretty nice facility to none to having one of the nicest in the state,” J.B. Miller said.