Jinks Middle School Gym reopens after Hurricane Michael devastation

Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — After more than two years, a local building that became symbolic of the destruction of Hurricane Michael has been restored.

The Jinks Middle School gymnasium officially reopened on Monday as Bay District Schools held a grand reopening ceremony celebrating the rebuild.

“To see this rebuilt, kind of makes you say ok, ‘we’re starting to come out of that terrible time we were in,’” said BDS Superintendent, Bill Husfelt, who attended Jinks Middle School in his youth.

In the days following Hurricane Michael, he said photos and drone footage of the gym became synonymous with the destruction that the storm left behind. 

“It was just like a bomb blew up inside of it,” he said. “This became a symbol of just how horrible Hurricane Michael was.”

Inside Jinks Middle School Gym after Hurricane Michael

Now, more than two years later, the facility has been rebuilt into a state-of-the-art gymnasium complete with a basketball court, weight room and locker rooms. The building broke ground in late 2019, and cost around $8.2 million to complete.

“We are thrilled to have this facility back online,” said Jinks Middle School Principal, Blythe Carpenter. “We were the only secondary school in the district without the benefit of having a gymnasium and like I said it’s been very challenging, we’ve had to travel for everything.”

It’s named the “Coach Richard Post Gymnasium,” named after late Coach John Richard Post who was a BDS employee for 38 years. His son and wife, Joyce, attended both the groundbreaking ceremony and the grand reopening.

“How beautiful it is, it’s just wonderful,” Mrs. Post. “He would say it’s hard to believe.”

The basketball court also honors long-time Jinks coach, Sue McKinney, with her signature printed onto the hardwood. The detail came as a surprise during the ceremony.

Carpenter said she’s excited for her students to start physical education classes there immediately, as well as sports events, like the first home basketball game to be played on the court on Tuesday. 

“For our kids to be able to come out of their classrooms and walk down to the gym, and utilize the locker rooms that are their locker rooms, and use their court to practice on and truly have a home-court advantage is going to be huge for them,” she said. “We’re very proud to show off this facility.”

Husfelt said he’s excited to watch the facility be used for years to come by both the district and the community.

“It continues to bring hope that we will one day get back to where we were before the hurricane and even surpass that,” he said.

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