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Guido: Local venues score needed facelifts

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 1:11 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Sound-absorbant panels await installation on the walls of the Burrell High School gymnasium from a Moret Construction crew doing renovations Tuesday, July 30, 2013

While the focus at this time of year is outdoor sports such as baseball and soccer and preparation for football season, indoor work is continuing on two venerable facilities dating to the 1960s.

Burrell High School's gym, built in 1964, is getting a facelift.

Moret Construction is in charge of ongoing work to make cosmetic improvements such as painting in gym floor, walls and the ceiling.

New banking boards will be installed, and electrical work will be done.

Most of important of all, a new sound system will be installed.

Since the facility opened during the 1964-65 school year when Burrell consisted of only juniors and sophomores, the terrible acoustics have been a trademark of the gym.

Some improvement was done several years back when square pads were installed on the walls to absorb some of the din.

It was hard to carry on a conversation with a person in the next row of bleachers because of the acoustical problems, and coaches have always had a tough time communicating with athletes during a game.

When Hall of Fame basketball coach Tom Myers took over the Burrell job in the 2005-06 season, after the first home game he commented how he had forgotten how hard it was to holler instructions.

When legendary coach Hank Kuzma brought his Plum teams to Burrell in the late 1970s, he would use flash cards from the bench to call plays.

The school district is spending $156,000 on the improvements.

The Alle-Kiski Valley's oldest hockey arena, Belmont Complex in East Franklin Township, is getting $1.38 million of work this summer.

The facility, built in 1967 and owned by Armstrong County, is getting work done on its aging locker rooms and the front entrance is being renovated.

Various contractors are removing existing tile and flooring, while plumbing and electrical work is also on the roster of improvements.

Armstrong County commissioner David Battaglia said 75 percent of the funding is from state and federal grants.

Something else vital to the hockey operation at Belmont was also fixed during the summer: the Zamboni.

The 16-year-old vehicle has had problems, including fluid leakage and mechanical problems that caused about a 30-minute delay to last season's PIHL game between Freeport and Mars.

Two students from Lenape Technical School did the mechanical work and received classroom credits for their efforts.

Officials said the students repaired the oil leakage, replaced the ice conditioner and its loose springs, replaced the fuel hose and tuned up the engine.

The county bought the repair materials for around $2,000 and the students doing the repairs saved the county at least $4,000.

The Belmont is used for home games involving Freeport, the new Armstrong merger between Ford City and Kittanning, along with the newly reborn Highlands hockey team.

Cheering orange and blue

Speaking of the new Armstrong high school hockey team, it was announced the squad will be wearing orange and blue uniforms this winter, the color scheme of the still-unnamed high school due to be completed in 2015.

It will be the first time a local scholastic sports team will wear orange and blue uniforms since Arnold High School played its final baseball game in May 1967.

The new Armstrong duds will be a brighter orange and blue combo, similar to the University of Florida.

In Arnold's era, the Lions wore more of a burnt orange and darker blue.

The new Armstrong school will be the only one in Western Pennsylvania to sport orange and blue.

In fact, Hershey High School might be the closest place where orange and blue is worn.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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