Court Dedicated To Parks & Rec Director
On Saturday, January 11th, the Lee Street Gymnasium in Benson was packed with excited parents, coaches walking up and down the side of the court, kids sinking baskets, and Parks and Recreation employees running the show.
That might sound like a normal Saturday morning for Parks and Rec Basketball, but for more than a year, Lee Street was unusable. Last week, the Town of Benson celebrated the grand reopening of the gym to much fanfare.
Hurricane Florence swept through Benson in September 2018 and did a significant amount of damage to the gymnasium. The roof was severely wind-damaged in several places, allowing heavy rains inside the gym. The rainwater completely destroyed the hardwood floor and bleachers. Town officials closed the gym immediately upon discovering the damage.
A short time after a visit from the insurance company, Benson administration and Parks and Rec Director Matt Smith began bidding out the various jobs needed to restore the gym to its former glory. Moreover, they were able to use the insurance funds to make the gym better than it once was — including the installation of a much-needed air conditioning unit.
“It was a tough year,” explained Mr. Smith. “But I will take that year of inconvenience to have what we have now. I’ve never seen something come together like this.”
In addition to the new AC unit, Lee Street now has brand new hardwoods (sporting the Benson town seal at center court), new navy blue bleachers that are movable for events, new paint throughout, and carpeted entryways and locker rooms.
For those familiar with the Lee Street of the past, the updates are quite dramatic.
“Now, this is a gym,” remarked Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin to the crowd on Saturday. “To see these kids playing basketball here again makes us all feel good.”
In addition to the grand reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony for Lee Street on Saturday, there was one very special dedication.
The Lee Street gym court was named after Mr. Smith. The dedication was a complete surprise to him — something commissioners and town staff had managed to keep secret. Assistant Town Manager Kim Pickett made the announcement as Public Works Director Tim Robbins walked onto the court with a large sign reading, “THE MATTHEW SMITH COURT.”
Below the large blue letters, the sign reads: Dedicated to Parks & Recreation Director Matthew Smith for his devotion and contributions to the Benson community.
Mr. Smith was surprised to say the least, holding back a few tears during a torrent of hugs and high- fives from the crowd.
“To the Benson Town Board, residents, co-workers, family, and friends, I have to say a very heart-felt ‘thank you’ to you all for the support, all the congratulations, and kind words,” he said about the dedication. “I cannot begin to express the honor, pride, and privilege that I feel. I am truly humbled… I will continue to make Benson the best it can be and I will try to live up to the this incredible honor. Thank you all!”