Rudolph Rivera Middle School's brand-new gymnasium, the smell of its freshly painted walls and polished hardwoods still evident, was christened Wednesday afternoon during a 45-minute grand opening ceremony.
The $5.5 million gym on Buena Vista Drive in North Merced was built with a combination of bond, state and city funding, and is the first phase of what may be three stages of upgrading at some time in the future.
"We pledge to faithfully and respectfully use this," Rivera Principal Brian Ferguson told the 100 people attending the dedication. "It's an amazing facility, which will be put to good use. We thank you for your investment in Rivera Middle School."
RoseMary Parga Duran, Merced City School District superintendent, said Rivera School needed its own gym and the city-school partnership shows how joint use is the best way to go in wisely using funds.
"It's a miracle in itself in this economy," Duran said. "And I think it came in a little under budget."
When the joint use agreement was approved, the city needed additional facilities to accommodate its expanding recreation program. Since then, city recreation programs have been drastically reduced and there is no longer a need to regularly use the gym, city spokesman Mike Conway said.
Darrell Cherf, president of the Board of Education, called the 16,000-square-foot gym a win-win situation for the district and the city.
"It's a great use of funds," Cherf said. "We want to thank taxpayers for agreeing to pay extra taxes. Without that, this would not be possible."
Measure S, passed in November, 2003, provided $3 million, and a $1.5 million state grant was used. The city's share ended up being $950,000 and the city will receive a $100,000 credit for use of the facility. The school district will maintain the gym.
The city and school district will revisit the joint use issue within five years. If the city's capacity to offer recreational programs increases in the future and there's a need for additional facilities, a subsequent amendment can be made, Conway said.
Opening ceremonies began with the Rivera chorus singing the national anthem, a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and the unveiling of the Rivera Knights mascot logo, in green, black, silver and white, on the gym floor.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.