Cumberland's Pride Some Is Still Special

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Last Thursday, the Cumberland High School girls basketball team had an impromptu “Turn Back the Clock Night” when a heating issue at the new CHS Gymnasium forced the team to move its game against Central of Lunenburg to The Pride Dome.

What a treat.

The Pride Dome, which was once home to some of the most memorable teams in Cumberland High School's storied basketball history, was spared when the old school was razed and rebuilt a few years ago.

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The only changes to the structure were to close off the doors to the old locker rooms, slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls and do something about that stuff on the ceiling.

They didn't even install a second scoreboard.

Truth be told, it would've been cheaper to tear down and rebuild a bigger gym along with the rest of the structure, but this is Virginia.

Every storage barn that has been around for longer than two weeks, has some sort of preservation society documenting the historical significance of the building and lobbying to get one of those silver roadside signs erected, just to let everyone know how important it is to the fabric of The Commonwealth.

For Cumberland, it was the right call to save the building they call The Pride Dome, which is closer to the size of a phone booth than a dome, but that's part of its charm.

The place was once a chamber of horrors for visiting teams, back when the school was continually challenging for Group A State championships.

I remember my first trip there for a basketball game against Prince Edward during the 1999-2000 season.

I was told to get there early, “or else”.

“Or else, what?” I thought. It wasn't exactly the best time in Cumberland's athletics history, and Prince Edward was hovering around the .500 mark.

Not being from around here – I'm originally from just outside of Charlotte, NC, where they tear down historical buildings just to rebuild something that looks historical – I heeded the warning.

Or so I thought.

I figured that if I were to get there before halftime of the JV game, I should be able to grab a seat somewhere. I was, kind of.

It was only because of who I am that I got into the building – the first, and only, time that has worked. I counted about 50 disappointed fans turned away just before I was let in – again, only because I was with the paper.

My seat? It wasn't exactly a seat, but I wasn't going to complain. It was in front of a water fountain just inside the front door. The fountain, which was not completely recessed into the wall, didn't hit me in the most comfortable of places.

At least I wasn't three deep like the rest of the folks along the baseline, but in order to be comfortable, I had to go up on my toes.

My mamma raised me better than to sit on a water fountain, so I dealt with the minor problem.

It's said that the old gym sat 500. That night it felt more like 50, and the other 450 (probably upwards of 650) seemed to be ringing the court.

The good old days.

Actually, not even that. I was about 15 years too late to see The Pride Dome in its heyday, but to this day I have never been so cramped. I have also never been so close to the game.

That night, I learned what “get there early” meant when it came to Cumberland/Prince Edward.

Now, the teams play in facilities that can more than handle the crowds. That, along with Prince Edward's moves to other districts, have really hurt the turnout.

With Cumberland's new gym, along with the gym PE opened in the 1990s, everyone that wants to go, can now get a seat.

It needed to be done, but in a way, it's a shame.

It was good to swap stories about that night and others while we comfortably watched the Cumberland girls team play Central in the old gym.

It wasn't the first time Cumberland has used it for varsity competition since the new one opened. The boys team was run out of The Pride Dome by a Fluvanna team that was insulted to be playing in the old place, and Buckingham's girls team cruised to an easy victory there sometime later.

But it was different Thursday night.

Counting students, administrators, team members, fans, referees and one reporter, maybe 100 people were in the old place.

It sure seemed like more. Ghosts? Noisy ghosts that were happy to see one more varsity game?


Is it a good idea to appease the ghosts with a varsity game every now and then?