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LeBron James donates $1 million for STVM gym

5/9/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Unofficially, the St. Vincent-St. Mary (STVM) High School gym is known as the place where LeBron James played basketball in high school. Pretty soon, however, the gym will officially be known as “The LeBron James Arena.”

James, who graduated from the school 10 years ago, is donating $1 million to renovate STVM’s gym.

Patty Burdon, public relations manager for the high school, said the “entire gym will be gutted.”

“It will be new bleachers, new flooring, new lighting. A wall is going to be moved to accommodate the size to make this a state-of-the-art official gymnasium floor. There will be a training room also added,” she said. “When the big guy comes to town, you will probably catch him in the new gym.”

Burdon said STVM first heard about James making the donation at the end of January.

“The only reason that it is now being announced is obviously timing for PR purposes and getting all of the background details worked out,” she said. “They wanted to make sure the announcement was made at the time when all of the details had been worked out. … [Since January], we have been able to acquire renderings and we have had companies come in to give us ideas and thoughts of what we’re going to do.”

As for James’ involvement in developing the makeover, Burdon said the basketball player will be working “side by side” with the school.

“Obviously, a lot of it will have to be done via email through his foundation, but he does want to see the renderings and he does want to have input,” she said. “Fortunately for us, [STVM basketball] coach Dru Joyce is LeBron’s voice through this project. He will be the guy that we communicate with and get more feedback through. But make no mistake about it, this will be a LeBron project.”

Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said the project is part of James’ commitment to his hometown.

“LeBron has such a deep love for the Akron community, and his heart will always be here,” she said. “This gym is just one way that he shows his commitment to this community, but he doesn’t do it for the recognition; he does it for the love he has for Akron. To see those kids succeed is what matters most to LeBron.”

According to Burdon, renovation on the gym is expected to begin fairly soon.

“I think you’re going to start seeing demolition within the next few weeks,” she said. “And then, of course, all of the specialty companies will be coming in. Not that everything will be installed right away, because you have to be sure that all of your specs are submitted.”

Burdon said James isn’t the only STVM alumnus committed to making this project happen.

“There are a lot of people who are coming together as part of this,” she said. “You are going to see a lot of people from our school community who are going to come in to give their time to help make this work. Everyone is very excited about this.”

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