When Matt Larson was elected to the Town of Trent Board, one of the first things he heard was that the gym needed to be updated.
“Maybe I’ve taken it a little too far,” Larson said it with a chuckle.
Or maybe he’s spearheading an effort to make the Trent gym an up-to-date gathering space for the community.
From the public reaction, Larson knows that people in the area are interested in investing in the gym. A recent event, with a steak fry, raffles and a silent auction, raised $14,000. An anonymous donor matched that amount. With $28,000 in hand, the gym is well on its way to having new, larger, handicapped accessible bathrooms.
The bathrooms are just the start of a long to-do list that includes new appliances for the kitchen, a new ceiling, refinished flooring, a double door on the north entrance and a new parking lot on the east side.
Huber Electric in Baltic worked on electrical upgrades at no charge.
“When the ladies use roasters,” Larson said, “they have to have one posted by the breaker box.”
Updated heating and the introduction of air conditioning are also on the list.
“That’s one of the big things,” Larson said. “It’s never been air conditioned.”
Larson estimates all the upgrades will cost about $150,000, but that estimate is hard to figure because people have been so generous.
One donor gave a Daktronics sign for posting information about upcoming events or city happenings. The vanities in the bathrooms were donated. The bathroom doors and trim came from a gutted building in Sioux Falls.
“The more things we can get like that, the less cash we have to have,” Larson said.
The people of Trent have rallied around the project.
“The people in town have just been amazing, helping out at the events, donating things,” Larson said.
Interest in refurbishing the gym has sparked more interest in using the facility. Through Thanksgiving the site has scheduled a couple auctions, a benefit, a craft show, a welcome home for a member of the military and a dart tournament.
“Once we started pushing it, then people wanted to use it more, even though it’s not any better than it ever was,” Larson said. “It’s getting challenging getting all the work done between the events.”
With a population of just more than 200, it’s obvious that not all of the events are being scheduled by people in Trent.
“There aren’t the venues that there used to be,” Larson said. “There isn’t as many places for people to get together as there used to be.”
Trent will be another step closer to having an upgraded venue after a fundraising auction on Nov. 11. The event starts at 11 a.m. and includes a short Veterans Day program. Dean Gulbranson, will be the auctioneer.
Items consigned to the auction so far include a John Deere tractor, ATVs, snowmobiles, trailers of all kinds and campers. Larson explained that large items have a reserve that must be met in the bidding. Any proceeds over the reserve are split 50-50 with the fundraising effort.
People can donate items outright to the auction as well. The only restriction is that they don’t want any clothing.
Trent recently had a visit from Madison artist John Green. He took pictures around town and plans to paint a Trent scene that will be finished at the auction and then sold to the highest bidder.
According to Larson, the same anonymous donor who matched the funds from the steak fry has pledged to match the funds raised by the auction.
“That’s so huge,” Larson said.
News of the work being done in Trent has spread as far as the state’s capital. The city council recently got a letter from Gov. Dennis Daugaard praising their efforts.
“You are doing a true service to the people of your community and for all who have memories of playing basketball or attending graduation there,” Daugaard wrote.
The governor has his own connection to the Trent Gym.
“I myself have fond memories of the Trent gym—the fondest of all being the summer of 1981 when Linda and I were married and held our wedding dance at the gym,” Daugaard wrote. “The Myron Lee and the Caddies Band played, and everyone there danced for hours.”
Dances are something that organizers in Trent would like to bring back to the gym.
“We’re hoping to have one every three months,” Larson said. “There’s talk of having one in January or February to see how it goes.”
In the meantime, there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of money to raise. Anyone interested in placing items in the auction can call Jeri Sabie at 605-941-7303 or Larson at 605-201-0450. People who want to schedule events at the gym should call Larson.
Looking over all the work that needs to be done in the gym, Larson has a clear understanding of the project he has started.
“It won’t ever be the Taj Mahal, but at least it will be handicapped accessible, have air conditioning and look a little better,” Larson said.