Earl Bell to be closed to remove asbestos from flooring

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Earl Bell Community Center will be closed at the beginning of the year to remove asbestos from the building.

The buckling basketball floor is not only a hazard but a pain to play on. The city hopes getting it fixed will provide a safer place for kids.

Whether it's outside or inside, pick up games are common at the Earl Bell Community Center. Unfortunately, so are bumps and dead spots in the flooring.

"We dribble and we hit like a bubble or somethin', we either lose control and the ball just go out of bounds and we get mad about it," Tra'Von Neal told Region 8 News.

Neal said he plays basketball at the Earl Bell Center three to four times a week. He explained the floor doesn't just make it more difficult to play but also more dangerous.

"We had a lot of injuries here, like I had an injury here before and a couple of my friends had injuries here," he said.

That's because underneath the rubber floor, are the old, asbestos floor tiles.

"We've had some issues with this gym sweating over the past however long and the asbestos tile has actually buckled up and made rivets all over the floor," Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Director Wixson Huffstetler said.

The city has approved removing those old floor tiles but they only have a short amount of time to do so.

"We start our City Stars Casketball in the first of February so we really need to get it done in the month of January," Huffstetler explained.

Players say closing the gym for a month will be worth it.

"This is where I'd be at every day," Neal said."I normally go to Parker Park because they've got better floors, better gym and air."

The gym will be closed all day starting January 5th and should reopen on February 3rd. The cost of the project is right at $30,000 and will come out of the Jonesboro Parks and Recreation 2014 Budget.

That budget also has money set aside for putting an air conditioning unit inside the gym.

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