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Different look for TMP basketball home opener

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Fans of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School basketball, along with their players and coaches, are in for a new experience for Friday's home opener.

The Monarchs' first home game of the 2013-14 season will be played in the St. Joseph Parish school gym, formerly Kennedy Middle School and still commonly referred to as the Kennedy gym.

TMP-Marian was notified by letter from the State Fire Marshal's Office in early November the maximum number of occupants safely allowable in the bleachers in Al Billinger Fieldhouse -- home of Monarch basketball for six-plus decades -- is 49 persons, based on the location and capacity of exits.

Claire Gustin, chairwoman of the Catholic School Board of Trustees, said the SFMO has approved the architect's proposal and plans are underway to start construction.

Until the renovation or addition of exits are completed and inspected by the SFMO, TMP Athletic Director Gene Flax is looking for alternative sites for home games.

Because the Monarchs' next home opponent following Friday's games is another Ellis County team -- Victoria -- those games scheduled for Jan. 3 will be played in Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Flax said capacity for the Kennedy gym is 500, and risers are being added on the stage for students for Friday's games. The concessions stand that set up shop on stage for this year's TMP junior high games will be in the Kennedy cafeteria.

Following the Victoria games and one more home contest -- Jan. 17 vs. Russell -- the Monarchs will be on the road until the second week of February.

Flax said final plans have not been made for location of future games past the Victoria contests.

"We're going to evaluate after Friday night's game; then we'll make plans," he said. "That will be key, how conducive (the Kennedy gym) is to hold that many people."

Friday's game schedules for the Kennedy gym are: 4:30 p.m. -- junior varsity girls; 6:15 p.m. -- varsity girls; approximately 7:45 p.m. -- varsity boys. Games at Holy Family Elementary School are: 4:30 -- junior varsity boys; approximately 6:15 -- C-team boys; approximately 7:45 -- C-team girls.