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East Franklin plays final game in Rebel Dome as gym reconstruction approaches

Although it is rectangular in shape, the East Franklin gym in recent years has been affectionately nicknamed by locals as the “Rebel Dome.” Built in 1971 with the construction of the junior high school, the 50-year old gym is set to be reconfigured and expanded to accommodate a fullsized basketball court, more seating capacity and additional classroom space.

“I am very excited about the future building project at East Franklin Junior High,” said Franklin County Superintendent of Education Greg Hamilton. “Classroom space and a new gymnasium are essential with the increasing enrollment at the school. I speak for many when I say we are very blessed and fortunate to be able to do this project.”

Ralton Baker has served on the Franklin County Board of Education for almost 30 years. He said getting a new gym for the community he lives in has been a major priority.

“This is been something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Baker. “The gym is just too small for P.E. classes and especially for basketball games, when the court is not regulation size. We will have a better playing surface and more seating.”

Anyone who has ever been to a basketball game at East Franklin, or especially played in a game in the gym, knows how difficult it is to watch or play there.

When the three-point line was instituted by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, there was barely enough room in the corners for a player to get his or her feet set to take a shot. It could also be a dangerous situation for players, officials and fans alike, with the aluminum bleachers hugging the out-of-bounds lines and spectators feet continually on the playing surface.

“Our gym carries five decades of memories for our community, both good and bad – but mostly good,” said East Franklin Principal Leann Trapp. “Accomplishments, acknowledgements, memorials, game victories and defeats, and the hub where other communities came together to help those of us misplaced during the 2011 tornado – all these things have happened inside this little gym.”

“It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to something that has been a special part of our community for so many years,” added Trapp, “but we are so excited to see what new memories will be made in our new gym. I look forward to seeing the smiles on all the many faces as those memories are made.”

When students finish the ninth grade at East Franklin, they mostly transfer to Phil Campbell High School, although some continue on at Tharptown High School. Fittingly, the last game to be played in the gym was against Phil Campbell Dec. 13.

Macy Hardy recently completed her final season as a basketball player at East Franklin and helped lead the A-Junior girls teams to two consecutive Franklin County Tournament titles.

“We always knew we would have to play a last game at East Franklin, but we never knew how hard it would be to play our last game in the Rebel Dome,” said Hardy, whose parents, Danny and Miranda, went to school at East Franklin and played in the Rebel Dome, too. “The Rebel Dome is not just a gym. It’s the gym that our families got to play in and got to share the same memories as we do now. When we heard that East Franklin was getting a new gym after this season, it made the last home game even sweeter because it was going be the last game ever played in the original gym.”

Hardy, still a student at East Franklin, is already dressing with the varsity girls team at Phil Campbell and contributing significant minutes.

“As we all move to different schools,” she said, “I will always remember the school that made us who we are today. Once a Rebel, always a Rebel.”