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Former Biddy Basketball courts are now home for Y basketball

With its basketball goals lowered and metal bleachers folded, the Garvey Sports Center stands empty and silent, except for the buzz of lights inside.

The facility, home to the Salvation Army's Biddy Basketball program for the past 16 years, won't be quiet much longer.

This fall, the gym near Harry and Oliver will be full of children playing in the YMCA's youth basketball league, said Barry Davis, executive director of the YMCA's East Branch.

After the Salvation Army announced plans in February to end its Biddy program after more than 50 years, Builders Inc. had the option to re-acquire the facility because the company had deeded it to the organization. The company began talking to groups that could use the gym, said Brad Smisor, executive vice president of the company.

The company decided on the YMCA and deeded the building to the organization Friday.

"We've always had a long-term relationship — the Garveys have — with the Y," Smisor said.

Mike Garvey, president of Builders Inc., is the grandson of Wichita developer Willard Garvey, who helped raise money to build the Central YMCA. The Garvey family also donated land to build the South Y and a now-closed North Branch on Hillside.

The facility, with its nine courts, will provide more space for the 7,000 children who played in the 2010-11 fall and winter leagues. In addition to the gyms at its branches, the YMCA rented four or five school gyms each week to provide enough space for games and practices. The new center will help fix that, Davis said.

"We're just busting at the seams," Davis said. "It's going to open a lot of opportunities for us."

Children from the East and North branches will primarily use the center, which the East Branch will manage.

When the Salvation Army announced the end of the Biddy program, Builders Inc. gave first option on the facility to a group of people who wanted to reorganize the league, Smisor said. However, the group's attorney told the company in May that it did not plan to use the facility, he said.

None of the Biddy officials could be reached Tuesday for comment about the group's plans. However, its website says, "Biddy Basketball will soon be returning to Wichita."

At a Salvation Army auction of Biddy supplies in May, Builders Inc. bought basketball goals and bleachers because it knew about the planned partnership with the YMCA, Smisor said. The YMCA later purchased them from the company.

Shelly Conrady, communications director for the Greater Wichita YMCA, said there are no plans for any upcoming renovations, except to update the signs outside the building that say Biddy Basketball.

The YMCA plans to use the gym for basketball first, but the organization is also thinking about other ways it could use the facility, like for group exercise or youth classes, Davis said.

Come fall, Davis said he's excited for basketball players to use the facility — a place made specifically for their sport.

"You walk in and you feel like you're in a basketball gym, and I think that's a neat opportunity for the kids," he said.

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