By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The new home for Bluefield High School basketball showcases two teams on the shiny new floor of the Brushfork Armory.
The Mercer County school system has recognized the “third team” that made it happen, 12 years after the last game was played in the spacious arena.
The Bluefield boys team hosted PikeView High School a week ago today. The job of preparation for the season began on Nov. 14 was completed just 17 work days later, said Mercer County Schools spokeswoman Kellan Sarles.
The system’s purchasing director, Leslie Wellman, said, “The armory personnel were wonderful to work with. Tom Howell was great, and Ben England stayed there until 2 a.m. when we were in a crucial stage one night.”
Bluefield High boys coach Buster Large said after the Beavers’ victory in their first game, “I was very, very pleased with how our community came out tonight. I think everybody wanted to see some basketball — and everybody wanted to see this beautiful facility we have.”
Large continued, “We’re very, very proud of it, and very thankful. Not only the Mercer County board of education, but the administrative staff at Bluefield High School, and the Army staff here — they have spent an unbelievable amount of time getting this facility ready (and) ensuring that these kids were able to get out here for the first game.
“We, as a coaching staff, and members of the Bluefield High School basketball team are very, very appreciative of that effort.”
“They refurbished everything,” said Bluefield High School principal Michael Collins. “It was a collaboration of Bluefield High School, the school board and the community.”
Wellman and purchasing agent Regina Rarick “worked long hours behind the scenes to procure the floor, scoreboards, and goals,” according to a press release from the county school system.
The disassembled floor arrived on Nov. 14 by tractor-trailer, the report said, and consisted of 120 sections of hardwood floor, each weighing 180 pounds. The shipment included “some instructions on how to build it,” the press release stated.
A crew of 14 maintenance employees of the school system went to work. Each piece of the floor was positioned and locked into place. Then the surface had to be sanded and painted, the press release reported, with the refinishing job being done by R.M. Huffman.
That wasn’t the end of the prep work. The crew took the floor pieces apart again to let the refinishing job dry, according to the release.
“They really went through the whole process twice,” said Wellman, “and the second time was even more time consuming. The crew was meticulous about making every line straight.”
The Mercer County school employees involved in the installation, under the direction of Supervisor Melvin Gregg, were Gary Bailey, Scottie Bowling, Jamie Bryant, Tracy Cox, Larry Cordle, Aaron Holland, Ronnie Huffman, Robert Lusk, Steve Moretto, Cecil Scott, Tommy Tabor, Lenard Thompson and Randy Vass.
She said the employees juggled their regular assignments to keep other facilities operational while also getting the job done at the armory.
Wellman also expressed thanks to the members of the board of education for their direction on the project and to Assistant Superintendent Joe Turner “for the many hours he spent on site.”
Collins said on the premiere night for the facility, “The community members were excited to be back.” He said the fans missed “not having our own home.”
The armory was declared off limits for basketball games a few months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The gymnasium at Bluefield High School proved too small to handle the crowds for many boys games.
Collins noted, “Bluefield State College was gracious enough to let us play on their court, but there were sometimes seating problems (exceeding the gym’s capacity), and we had to turn people away.”
Looking around the armory venue as workers cleaned up last Tuesday night, he pointed out the volume of space behind the clear backboards and the seating around all four sides of the playing floor — and drew a connection between the Brushfork Armory and the Charleston Civic Center, home of the state basketball tournaments.
“We hope to play in Charleston,” Collins said. The new environment, he said, “will allow us to get used to that type of venue, the size ... and shooting in a bigger arena.”
— Contact Tom Bone at