XENIA — As a kid, Ron Geyer and his brothers would spend countless hours inside Benner Field House.
Their father, Bob, would get the key from then-basketball coach Bill Kaylor and unlock the doors so they had a place to play.
“I spent a lot of my childhood in here,” Ron Geyer said. “I grew up across the street. Just somewhere I grew up.”
Geyer and other long-time Xenia residents had a chance to relive their childhood and reminisce about the past Thursday as the Xenia Community School District cut the ribbon on the renovated city jewel.
“It’s just something special,” Geyer said. “It’s a venue like no other. In our society they tear down to quick. They cared enough to keep it. They cared enough to rehab it.”
The ribbon cutting marked the end of current renovation phase, which included extensive brick work, new concrete stairs and custom handrails, new masonry walls, upgraded exterior lighting and repair and replacement of storm drains. Inside, the building features new paint, restored windows and new glass doors. The Doug Adams Trust provided funds to refinish the playing floor.
“This building has been the home court for championship teams,” Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton said prior to the ribbon cutting. “Now the next generation of student-athletes will be able to experience this Xenia tradition.
The project began two years ago when the board developed a facilities plan, which included making the field house safe and usable again. Future phases of the Benner Field House restoration will include renovation of both the locker rooms and bathrooms, as funding becomes available.
“Much like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, once again this elegant lady stands ready to serve our county,” school board president Dr. Paul Dillaplain said.
Inside, ribbon-cutting attendees caught the first glimpses of the finished product and were mesmerized by its appearance.
“It’s fantastic, oh my gosh,” said Mayor Sarah Mays. “It’s honoring our history. Significant pieces of Xenia history. This is a great place for the kids. It’s a great current place for our kids, but we’re honoring the history. Congratulations.”
Ground broke for the building Dec. 21, 1938, according to county historian Joan Baxter, who highlighted its construction in a Gazette column in May. A formal dedication was held Dec. 2, 1939 between games of a doubleheader with Wilmington. The building began to deteriorate and was in need of some work in the late 1960s and following the 1974 tornado, the school board decided to restore the field house since it was deemed structurally sound.
Originally called the Field House, it was named the Carl H. Benner Field House in 1971, to honor Benner, a long time Xenia schools teacher and administrator.
Benner came to Xenia in 1926 to teach biology, chemistry, general business and physics at Central High School. He later became principal. During his 39-year tenure, he saw the high school enrollment grow from 280 to 1,600 in the upper three grades. He was very involved with the athletic programs at the high school and was in regular attendance at all ball games and other extra-curricular activities.
The building was used for high school basketball until the mid 1970s. Phil Anderson, father of current XHS basketball coach Kent Anderson, coached the last official game during the 1976-77 season and the first official game at the current high school in the 1977-78 season. Lorrie Alexander scored the last points in the field house and the first points in the current gym, Phil Anderson said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.