Local teacher/coach opens sports facility


Photo: 256 Elite Training Facility and Recreation Center partners Mica Merriman, Jason Reeves and Dylan Walker (pictured, from left) gather for a photo during the facility’s grand opening on Friday, April 5 in East Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Michael Merriman’s 15-year dream was realized on Friday, April 5 in East Gadsden.
The Gaston High boys basketball coach, along with partners Jason Reeves and Dylan Walker, held a grand opening for 256 Elite Training Facility and Recreation Center located at 2633 East Meighan Boulevard on the site of the old Victory Cheer building.
“I’ve always wanted to have a multi-sport-type complex in our area, because I love kids and I love sports,” said Merriman. “I’ve always taught and coached, but I only had contact with the kids in my school, and I wanted to find a way to reach more kids throughout the community. I didn’t think that we have enough in our area to help people of all ages who truly love sports, and I think we’ll be able to provide that for them.”
Merriman and Reeves, who were teammates on the Berea College men’s basketball team in the early 2000s and have kept in touch since then, began discussing a partnership in a sports training facility about a year and a half ago. Merriman first met Walker when the former was a teacher/coach and the latter a student-athlete at Hokes Bluff High School. Walker is currently teaching and coaching at Gadsden City High School.
“Jason has always been very successful on the business side and he’s also a sports guy, so it seemed like a natural fit,” said Merriman. “Dylan has been a teacher and coach like I’ve been, so everything just came together.”
“We feel like there is a lot of opportunities to help the kids in this area,” added Reeves. “We know that football is big around here, but there are a lot of kids who play multiple sports, and we want to provide a safe space for them and help them grow.”
Merriman said that the old Victory Cheer building checked all the boxes for the requirements of outfitting a sports facility.
“We’ve been looking for a while for a building that we could use, but nothing was available that fit our needs for a basketball facility with the ceiling height. So it was kind of a perfect scenario when [Victory Cheer] moved out of the building.”
According to Merriman, the facility will provide basketball training for boys and girls in small group sessions, large group sessions and speed and agility training; an AAU basketball team; two men’s basketball leagues; baseball and softball hitting and fielding lessons; club volleyball; indoor soccer and a cornhole league. The facility also includes a gaming room and space for birthday parties.
“We’ve got a pretty wide range of things we want to do to get started, and we’ll add more things down the road,” said Merriman. “This is a place I would have lived in growing up around here. We did have a few rec centers, but they were typically not the best maintained buildings and there wasn’t a whole lot of organization in terms of having a set schedule of games. We’re going to offer a very structured environment for skill development.”
Merriman pointed out that he and his partners wished to keep the pricing for the training programs at a reasonable level.
“We’re well under most of the rates that are offered and well below the price of a typical AAU program, and we did that on purpose because we wanted to help kids,” he said. “We’re also looking to do some fundraisers to relieve the financial burden on the parents, because as the parent of two AAU players, I realize how expensive it is.”
The facility’s current operating hours are Monday to Friday from 1 – 11 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 12 – 6 p.m.
For more information, e-mail Training@256elite.com or visit 256elite.com.
“We want this facility to be a staple in our community,” said Merriman. “Not only for the youth, but for it to be the kind of place where adults can come in and play basketball after a stressful day at work.”



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