Welcome back

Kyle Riviere
The St. Amant community celebrates the Gold Dome's re-opening last Thursday night. Photo by Kyle Riviere

Being at St. Amant last Thursday night was a real treat.

The Gold Dome isn't just a staple of St. Amant High, it's one of the most indelible images of all Ascension Parish athletics. And even though the building was still here all this time, having it lie there dormant for two years made you feel empty as a sports fan.

But finally, that emptiness is gone. Finally, the Gold Dome is back and running, and I for one am excited to go back there to cover basketball and volleyball games this upcoming year.

Thursday night's celebration drew a packed house. Many of the people there were students and athletes, who now get to enjoy the gym like they had so many times before the devastating Flood of 2016.

It was nice to see Butch Pierre at the event.

Pierre has had a long and accomplished career in basketball. He played at Mississippi State, before becoming a coach. As an assistant, he has done stints at 10 different schools--which include his alma mater, LSU, Oklahoma State and N.C. State.

But before all of that, there was St. Amant. There was the Gold Dome.

It was interesting to hear Pierre tell the story of how he ended up a Gator.

He said that he was on an undefeated championship team at East Ascension, but when St. Amant High opened in 1978, his parents wanted him to attend. Pierre hated the idea, but his mom convinced him to check out the school before he made his decision.

He did just that. Pierre made a trip to St. Amant, and when he saw the Gold Dome for the first time, he was awestruck.

He said that it was beautiful, and he knew that it was the place he wanted to play basketball.

Pierre went on to have a sensational career with the Gators. He, along with teammate John "Hot Rod" Williams put the St. Amant basketball program on the map.

Both players have displays inside the Gold Dome honoring their retired jerseys.

It was sad to not have Hot Rod there last week to celebrate the return of the dome. Unfortunately, he passed away back in 2015, following a fight with cancer.

But his legacy has certainly lived on. St. Amant's annual basketball tournament was renamed the John "Hot Rod" Williams Gold Dome Classic shortly after his death.

Now, that tournament will finally move back to where it belongs.

For the past two years, the event has been forced to move to Dutchtown's gym. It went well both seasons, but it just never felt the same. Just like St. Amant basketball never felt the same.

This past season, the Gators won the regular-season District 5-5A crown.

They went on to win their first playoff game since 2009. It was a victory that saw them fight back from 15 points down.

Sure, it was still euphoric winning that game at Dutchtown, but they would have given anything to celebrate in the Gold Dome.

There have been many celebrations inside that building.

In addition to the basketball teams, the volleyball squad has been nearly unbeatable there. They've claimed countless district championships and state tournament berths under that roof.

For the past two years, they have also been reduced to refugees.

In 2016, they were forced to play all their home games at Dutchtown. Last year, they made the move to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center's Ascension Gym.

In 2018, they'll finally be back to the friendly confines of the Gold Dome.

Ascension Parish is blessed with first-rate athletic facilities. The baseball and softball parks are beautiful. The football stadiums are rowdy and filled sideline to sideline with an infectious atmosphere.

But there's just something about the Gold Dome.

Among all the great high-school venues, it stands out. It resonates.

When you first see it, it immediately grabs your attention--just like it did to Butch Pierre. When you step inside, you find the most beautiful indoor stadium in the parish.

You haven't seen a high-school basketball game until you've seen a St. Amant vs. East Ascension late-season matchup in the Gold Dome.

It's loud, it's raucous and it's what makes high-school athletics so great. It's what makes Ascension athletics so great.

Welcome back, Gold Dome. We missed you.