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LaGrange High School’s Barn’ Raising

It’s never easy saying goodbye to an old love, but the blow can be softened when you welcome a brand-new flame. Just ask Michael Pauley and the student-athletes at LaGrange (GA) High School

For nearly 70 years the gymnasium at LaGrange, affectionately known as The Barn — taken from the town’s namesake in French, played host to countless conference battles, sectional finals, and championship games. It also served as pivotal stepping stones in the careers of numerous state hall of fame coaches. Built in 1953 and opened a year later, the gym had begun to show its age — with decades worth of wear and tear as well as unfillable holes and rust in the building. With more than 100 leaks, the foundation was falling apart. 

The Barn, needless to say, was in desperate need of an old-fashioned raising. 

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Photo: Courtesy LaGrange (GA) High School

“The death of the old gym is absolutely overshadowed by the birth of our new one,” Pauley, LaGrange’s long-time athletic director, said. “We’ll never lose the nostalgia of The Barn. It served us well for 66 years.” 

Pauley knew the new indoor facility had to keep up with the rich athletic tradition of the Grangers and provide a space for his student-athletes to excel. 

“The Granger pride is very real,” Pauley said. “We began competitive sports in 1916, playing football, baseball, and basketball since then. We have a very storied history within the state. Our football program is the second-winningest in the state and is nationally in the top 10.” 

Three years ago he secured funds for an all-inclusive, multi-use indoor facility as well as an indoor practice facility through E-SPLOST funds totaling $15.5 million, after trying to get a facility in the works for the last 10 years. By September the new 2000-seat facility was ready for use. Pauley and a group of others travel the state surveying other indoor facilities and practice fields to give ideas to his architects. The result is something, Pauley said, the whole community can be proud of. 

With bleachers on three sides and a fourth side dedicated to a student cheering section, the gymnasium may have that “new car” smell, but it also has some old school nod to The Barn. 

“We’ve done some things to replicate our old gym with home and away benches and the bleachers,” Pauley said, before adding the school even contemplated gutting the old gym and restoring it into a fine arts building. 

The indoor practice facility, standing at 40 yards in length and 53 yards in width, can occupy multiple teams while a game is taking place in the gymnasium. With lines on the turf set up for football and soccer and with a drape that deploys a football and soccer goal during practice, teams can replicate outdoor activities in a climate-controlled environment — which comes in handy with the high humidity and sudden rainstorms in Georgia. 

“If we take a day off it’s because we scheduled it,” Pauley said with a chuckle. 

While the new facilities bring excitement, it also brings a level of inclusivity previously unseen at LaGrange. Pauley recounted a recent story about a former paraplegic student who’s now an adaptive sports athlete at the University of Texas. The old gym did not have an elevator, but with the new building, the former LaGrange student was able to travel the whole facility and get the tour from Pauley while he was home for the holidays. 

“He was blown away by it all. And he was just one of many people who have had a similar reaction,” Pauley said. “And he never would’ve been able to do that in our old facility. 

In addition to the gymnasium and indoor practice facility, the updates included new locker rooms, a state-of-the-art weight room, meeting rooms, an athletic trainer’s room, and offices for the coaches — all of which are located in the practice facility. 

“The newness of life that has been created by the facility has absolutely overshadowed the grief and loss of the historic old gym,” he said. “This is a community changer.”