The year was 1950 and Santa Barbara High School held its first game in the newly completed gym. It was Santa Barbara High vs. St. Anthony's. The Dons won, 53-47.
If the walls could talk, there would certainly be stories about the sportsmanship and talent that was nurtured in that space. On Friday, 62 years since that first game, four stellar athletes returned to their old high school to join in the celebration of the newly renovated J.R. Richards Gymnasium.
Victor Bartolome (1966), Jamaal Wilkes (1970), Don Ford (1971) and Holly Ford Emerson (1984) joined Suzanne Richards, widow of the late-Principal J.R. Richards, Principal John Becchio and Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The renovation features a new maple floor; new acoustic ceiling; new LED lighting; new basketball standards and backboards; new scoreboards; new sound system; the North windows were repaired and glass has been replaced; and the gym has been repainted throughout.
Today, the gym serves about 700-800 students daily. Additionally, PE classes; basketball and volleyball games and practices; school dances; and pep rallies all take place in the gym. During community emergencies, Santa Barbara High's gym is one of the places the American Red Cross Santa Barbara County Chapter turns to when shelters are needed to house displaced residents.
This $1 million project was made possible with Measure Q2010 bond funds and $290,000 in community contributions raised by the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School.
— Barbara Keyani is administrative services and communications coordinator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.