‘Like new’

Public turns out for Cowley Log Gym ceremony

People, many of them from out of town, linger to chat and recall memories during the open house at the Cowley Log Gym Saturday afternoon. David Peck photo
People, many of them from out of town, linger to chat and recall memories during the open house at the Cowley Log Gym Saturday afternoon.
David Peck photo

After a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, visitors celebrating the Cowley Pioneer Day theme of “Thanks for the Memories” enjoyed a lot of memories Saturday afternoon as they poured through the doors of the newly-restored Cowley Log Gym and lingered to talk about good times in the “like new” facility.

Mayor Joel Peterson conducted the ribbon-cutting ceremony during which he thanked everyone who made the project come to fruition. Peterson thanked the town council members – Diane Badget, Rob Johnson, Dexter Woodis and Dennis Woodward – for their vision, the community, the Wyoming Business Council, the State Loan and Investment Board and local businesses S&L Industrial, GK Construction, Wilson Brothers Construction, Pryor Mountain Engineering, Synergy, the Office Shop and Mountain Construction for providing funding.

He also thanked the Cowley Recreation District, School District No. 1 and the Big Horn County Health Coalition for partnering for programming.

One person who stood apart from the rest, Peterson said, was Linda Harp, who laid most of the groundwork to obtain nearly $1 million in grant money for the project. In fact, it was Harp who cut the ribbon inaugurating the new era for the Log Gym.

Though there was an initial rush of around 200 people, the Log Gym stayed open for the rest of the afternoon, and many more visited the gym throughout the day, Peterson said.

The project was funded by a $991,960 Community Facilities Grant awarded in March by the Wyoming Business Council and confirmed in April by SLIB. Earlier, the Town of Cowley obtained an energy efficiency grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for a new heating and air conditioning system that was installed last spring. Earlier, new energy efficient doors and windows were installed under the same grant.

The grant monies were matched by the value of the building itself, and no additional monies were spent by the town to match the grants.

Work on the final restoration began in September of 2012, and over the next nine months general contractor Synergy Construction of Cowley tackled the main project, which included sand blasting the outside and acid washing the inside of the building, repairing and re-sealing logs, repairing the foundation in spots, re-chinking the logs with latex chinking, installing a newly insulated roof with fireproof metal shake shingles, two new restrooms, two new circular stairs to reach the balconies for dance and workout classes, weight training and the offices of the recreation district and perhaps the crowning achievement, a dazzling new wood floor with a suspended wooden support structure underneath, just like the original floor.

“The original structure had a suspended floor, so it had to be restored with a suspended floor,” Peterson said. “It has a soft feel to it.”

The historic facility also has modern technology for its operation. Peterson said a new security system includes security cameras inside and out and a card-reading system for access to the building, with access managed by the Cowley Rec District.

The facility includes a weight room, volleyball standards and net, a stage and a scorer’s table and chairs. Soon to come will be aerobic exercise equipment including ellipticals, treadmills, stationary bikes and jogging strollers.

A new parking lot will be constructed to the south of the building between the gym and a row of trees that will provide handicap access to the front door and 14 to 16 parking spaces just a few feet from the building.

Also in the works is a new sound system designed and built for the facility. Some final restoration is also needed on the north side of the building where the kitchen and locker rooms used to be, Peterson said.

“The building should last another 100 years,” he said.

Lots of help

Peterson said he is grateful that the Health Coalition and the school district have stepped forward as partners in the operation of the Log Gym. The school district has agreed to rent the facility for practices, which will help with the expense of maintaining the building.

“We thank the school board and the administration for their support,” the mayor said.

The Health Coalition will use the facility for after-school and summertime programs.

Peterson said he is also grateful for the support the town received while getting the project funded. He said Commissioner Keith Grant attended meetings when the grant was being sought and was “a big help.” Grant went “above and beyond what most would do, and it is greatly appreciated,” Peterson added.

He also said Secretary of State Max Maxfield helped turn the tide at the SLIB meeting, convincing a pair of skeptical members by saying, “I can’t go home tonight if I don’t vote for this facility because my wife (Gayla) attended dances in that gym when she was a young girl,” Peterson recalled.

Instrumental in pushing the project forward was Harp, Peterson said, who wrote the grants, attended grant meetings and put Peterson in contact with key people at the state level. He said Harp’s work was just the latest in her myriad efforts for the Town of Cowley.

“Linda has done a lot for the Town of Cowley,” Peterson said. “Every dime that has come in recent years is a direct result of Linda’s work: the West End Water Project, the Main Street Project, restoring the Log Gym, emergency repairs to the water tower. She’s not only a friend but a great ally of the Town of Cowley.”

Many uses

Peterson said the primary use of the log gym will be as a “community recreation center for facilitating the health and well-being of the community,” noting that the building will house the offices of the recreation district, which will be in charge of scheduling the building.

Though the facility will be primarily used for athletics and recreation, it will also be available for other types of events like wedding receptions, meeting, reunions, family gatherings and the like.

Activities will have to be scheduled around the “main renter” – the school district, Peterson said, adding that some activities like aerobics and weight training can be done even while the school is using the building for practices.

“It will be used like it was back in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” the mayor said. “We believe it can pay for itself with the support we have raised and the rec district charging for use to keep it cleaned and maintained.”

by David Peck