Friday night hoops in the ‘new’ gym

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

The recently renovated Tornado Fieldhouse, part of a $19 million expansion project at Storm Lake High School, makes it a much more enjoyable venue to watch basketball games.

I saw the Tornadoes play Spencer Tigers here Friday night before a large crowd. In the old days, with that many people, the gym could get pretty warm, especially in the top rows of the bleachers. Now a new hair handling system makes it quite comfortable to site and watch a game without getting overheated.

Another big plus is the sound system. Most high school gyms have terrible PA systems, and Storm Lake High’s wasn’t all that great either. But now you can hear the announcements quite clearly through the new speakers.

I had to listen to the PA announcer because I didn’t have a program. They’ve done away with them at Tornado basketball games. Now when you enter the lobby  you’re invited to scan a QR code — a square-shaped blob of black squares — which sends the program to your smart phone. I didn’t because I figure it’s too much trouble to look up the rosters on a phone during a fast-paced basketball game.

By eight o’clock at night a lot of phone batteries are running low, and if you want to check the rosters you have to pull the phone out of your pocket or purse, punch in the security code, select the icon for the app, then zoom in on the name or number you’re interested in. By then the teams have scored eight more times.

I know these new phones are pretty good at a lot of things, but there’s nothing more efficient than an 8½ x 11 piece of paper you can fold up and put in your shirt pocket and pull it out when you need it.

Friday night’s crowd was spirited, especially between the student sections, but the two Lakes Conference rivals played a good game and we were happy to see the home boys win.

At halftime the Tornado girls dance squad showed off their first place trophy from the state championship, a testament to their hard work and coach Co Wabeke’s talent. She has made Storm Lake High School a force to be reckoned with in this activity. We are familiar with it because our daughter Bridget was in dance squad at St. Mary’s and we traveled to Des Moines on several occasions to watch the girls compete and win at the state level in the old Veterans Auditorium.

This was the first basketball game I’ve seen in a while. We went to a lot of them for years when our kids — and kids of our friends — were in school and played in sports. Bridget played volleyball and golf while Justin was in track, cross country, baseball and basketball. We watched a lot of games in a lot of places around Iowa.

Now all the kids of people our age are grown and have moved off. We don’t know the kids playing today or their parents so it’s hard to build a connection with the teams. Maybe in 15 years we can watch our friends’ grandchildren play, if they still live around here.

We do have one young man to follow — Michael Knapp, son of our sports editor Jamie Knapp and teacher Jean Knapp. We got to see him play Friday night and make the old man proud when he scored a basket.

Go Tornadoes, Panthers and Beavers!