The last time Forsyth Central hosted a basketball game in its dome gym, many of the Bulldogs’ current players hadn’t yet been born. Bill Clinton had just been elected for his second term in the White House. The Atlanta Braves were World Series contenders.
That was Feb. 14, 1997. Central’s wrestling team is now the main tenant, but the hardwood floors and basketball hoops remain.
Friday night, for the first time in nearly 18 years, basketball returns to the 53-year-old building as North Springs visits for Central’s ‘Domecoming.’ Tipoff for the varsity girls game is set for 6 p.m., with the boys game to follow at 7:30. The school is selling black t-shirts and billing the event as a blackout.
Greg Dirst was Central’s boys coach in 1997—the Bulldogs reached the Class AA Sweet 16 that year—and, though his career took him to Cherokee and Lassiter in the interim, he’s back full circle.
"That gym makes us unique," Dirst said. "I’m really excited we’re finally doing this. It’s one of the best places to play."
These days, basketball gyms in Forsyth County fit one of two molds: bleachers on all four sides (Lambert, West Forsyth), or two-tier bleachers along each sideline and balconies along each baseline (Central, North, South). Not so at The Dome, where elevated wooden bleachers ring the dimly-lit floor.
"It’s going to take some cleaning up on my part, but everything we need—baskets, court, locker rooms—are still there," Dirst said.
The Bulldogs will practice in the dome on Thursday to get their bearings in what will be a foreign environment, what with low light and different rims. When Central visited North Springs earlier this season, the Lady Bulldogs won by 21, and Dirst’s boys pulled out a 73-69 win in overtime.
All Central alumni are welcome back for Friday’s event, the FCHS Booster Club’s Jennifer Hester said in an email. Dirst is expecting some of his former players from the 1990s to return to the ‘grand old lady,’ as the dome was called in a Feb. 19, 1997 article in the Forsyth County News.