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$200,000 in Damage Discovered at Fountain Valley Gym : Vandalism: Hardwood floor flooded, warped. Replacing it will take months, displacing volleyball and basketball teams.


FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Vandalism that caused $200,000 damage to the Fountain Valley High School gymnasium two weeks ago will disrupt several athletic programs because the hardwood floor must be replaced, school officials said Wednesday.

Principal Gary Ernst said vandals broke into gym the night of July 22, turned on a fire hose and flooded the floor. He said it was discovered Tuesday morning that the floor had started warping and was beyond repair.

"I looked at the gym, and I wanted to cry," he said. "I got sad and angry."

Ernst said the school is appealing to the public to help catch the culprits and a reward of $1,000 is being offered through WeTip.

Because reconstruction isn't expected to be completed until Jan. 1, Ernst said the school is looking for gyms in which to practice and play. Ernst said he'll be contacting other schools to arrange sharing facilities.

Girls' volleyball, with practice scheduled to begin Aug. 23 and matches on Sept. 9, will be affected first and will have to find alternative sites, Ernst said.

Boys' and girls' basketball also will have to scramble. Gordon Billingsley, boys' basketball coach, said his team would be on the road for tournaments in December (the season begins Nov. 29) but that the construction would hurt in other ways.

"I don't know what we're going to do," he said. "It cancels three lower level (freshman, sophomore and junior varsity) basketball tournaments . . . and they are money-makers.

"Just in gate receipts, we bring in $3,000. It's a big loss, especially in these days when there's more pressure on raising your own money. We've talked about trying to find another site at another school, but we're not sure if we'll be able to do that. It will take a big bite out of our budget."

Fountain Valley is also the site for the Five-Counties wrestling tournament, one of the biggest in Orange County. While construction is scheduled to be completed by the tournament date in mid-January, any delays might threaten that event and the approximately $5,000 the school earns as host, Ernst said.

Ernst also said that the gym is used for physical education classes and school assemblies.

"It's going to be an inconvenience--there'll be a limitation on athletic programs and we'll have no place to meet for assemblies because we won't have a gymnasium," he said.

The gym is also used for community youth basketball programs and is booked by other local groups for uses such boutiques, recreation programs and baseball card shows, Ernst said.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District has insurance to cover the majority of the cost of replacing the gym floor, Ernst said. He said the district has to pay $25,000.

Ernst also said transportation costs will be incurred in order to bus student-athletes to off-campus practices and games. Ernst said the district's insurance is expected to cover the busing costs as well other expenses related to the rescheduling.

Anyone with information can anonymously call WeTip at 1-800-782-7463.

Times Staff Writer Chris Foster contributed to this story.

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