There's no place like dome.
There's no place like dome.
For two years, the St. Amant faithful had to torturously walk past the Gold Dome. It was still standing tall, but they couldn't go inside. They couldn't hit the court for a basketball or volleyball game. They couldn't cheer on their Gators from the stands.
The doors are open again. The court is just as shiny as it's ever been. The Gold Dome is back.
Hundreds of members of the St. Amant community, along with Gator students and athletes finally walked into the arena last night and celebrated the grand re-opening. When the ribbon was cut, the resurrection of the Gold Dome became complete.
It's been a long, laborious journey.
In August of 2016, Ascension Parish felt the devastating power of Mother Nature.
Forty-eight straight hours of rainfall resulted in one of the most destructive floods the state has ever seen, and St. Amant was there to feel its crippling effects.
The community was ravaged. Homes and businesses were engulfed by the flood waters. So was the high school. So was the Gold Dome.
When the waters did subside, it was time to rebuild, but the rebuilding process wasn't an easy one. It took time. It took hard work and faith.
The students eventually went to back to the school, but the Gold Dome remained out of commission.
For two years, the St. Amant faithful waited, but now, the wait is finally over.
"We didn’t have a choice about leaving our homes on Aug. 12, 2016, and the same thing applies for this special place that has graced the St. Amant community since 1978, when it became home to the Gators," St. Amant Principal Beth Templet said. "We are thrilled to come back—not just to the renovated and freshly-painted building, but also to the memories that still echo inside it and draw us back here."
Two years ago, the gym floor was warped and seeped with mud and grime. Now it's immaculate.
"This building has seen decades of kids evolve into young adults, athletes transform into stars and students turn into proud Gators for life," Templet said. "Today is about more than our shiny new floor; it’s about where we have been the last two years on our journey to get back here as a community."
There to celebrate the re-opening was former Gator basketball great Butch Pierre. There is a display in the Gold Dome honoring his retired No. 10 jersey.
The Darrow native, former Mississippi State star and assistant coach at Oklahoma State and LSU said that he didn't want to make the move from East Ascension to St. Amant when the school first opened in 1978, but the Gold Dome changed his mind.
He said he fell in love with the structure the first time he saw it. It was the most beautiful building Pierre had ever seen. At that moment, he knew St. Amant was the place for him.
"I remember the feelings of excitement and nervousness, but it all went away when I got on this court and had everyone cheering for me. I felt as if I was invincible," Pierre said.
Also there to share in the great moment was St. Amant Fire Chief and Booster Club President James E. LeBlanc.
LeBlanc expressed his gratitude for the schools that stepped up and helped St. Amant following the flood--specifically East Ascension and Dutchtown.
These schools allowed Gator sports teams to use their facilities. Dutchtown was home for the basketball teams for two seasons.
The volleyball squad played at Dutchtown for one year, before moving to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center's Ascension Gym last season.
“You didn’t just open up your buildings, you didn’t only open up your grounds, but you opened up your hearts to the Gator family for the last two years," LeBlanc said. "We’re blessed. Every time we showed up to one of these schools for a function, these schools overwhelmingly accepted us. They even gave us the keys to their buildings, and I can’t thank them enough for that."
With a grin, LeBlanc then added, "But we’re home now, and the rivalry’s back on, so be ready."
Those hotly-contested rivalries that make Ascension parish athletics so great will now be back in the Gold Dome. But the building is about so much more than just the competition.
"This dome is the place where countless connections have been made, memorable celebrations have been shared and so many friendships have been formed," Templet said. "It will always be such an important part of our campus and the larger Gator community."