TMP basketball to play games at HHS gym

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian has found a new home away from home.

Administrators at the local Catholic high school announced Tuesday that its next two home basketball games will be played at Hays High School.

TMP will host Larned on Feb. 11 and Scott City on Feb. 14. Hays High plays out of town both those nights, thus won't be using its two gyms for games or practice.

The location switch is due to a construction project involving addition of fire exits that is ongoing at Al Billinger Fieldhouse, home of the Monarchs.

TMP-Marian officials were notified by letter from the State Fire Marshal's Office in early November that the maximum number of occupants safely allowable in the bleachers in the fieldhouse is 49 persons, based on the location and capacity of current exits.

Construction plans for new fire exits began immediately, and TMP basketball and wrestling teams have had to compete at alternate locations this season.

A matchup with Ellis County opponent Victoria was played at Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum earlier this month, and its other two home contests were played at the St. Joseph Parish gym, more commonly known as Kennedy Middle School.

TMP Athletic Director Gene Flax said that the Monarchs' opponents the week of Feb. 10 both have a "good following," so because Kennedy doesn't have a lot of seating, he started considering other options for those games.

Hays High Principal Marty Straub offered TMP to use his school's gyms for the cost of school custodians.

"We knew they were in a bind, and we offered our help in any way, back in December," Straub said. "We know it's for the kids, whether it's our kids or their kids."

Straub said there will be no charge to TMP for the use of the Hays High gyms because "we have a full custodial staff on duty at that time anyway."

TMP will supply workers and keep gate receipts, while a youth group associated with Hays High will run concessions as a fundraiser for its organization.

"It's a win-win situation for both (schools)," Hays High Athletic Director Clint Albers said. "We work together on a lot of things; this is just another one" of those times.

Joe Hertel, longtime Monarch boys' coach, took the news in stride.

"It's no big deal; at least we're going to play the games, and we won't have a long bus ride," said Hertel, whose boys' squad is 3-0 on alternate home courts this season.

Hertel added that his team also is familiar with Hays High's gym because the Monarchs play the majority of their games there in the Hays Recreation Commission's summer league competition.

TMP's last two scheduled games for the regular season are Feb. 18 vs. Hoisington and Feb. 20 vs. Colby. Hays High has two home games that week.

"I've got Felten on the back burner for those last games," Flax said of Hays Middle School, formerly named Felten Middle School, which has a much bigger capacity than Kennedy.

"We'll see how our construction comes along. It's a week-to-week thing."