Mountain View is getting a new high school next academic year, including a new gym, meaning this is the final basketball season for the original Thunderdome
There will be a new gym, of course, but it won’t be the same gym.
The Thunderdome is about to close.
Not sure what the new gym will be called, if it will even have a nickname. Maybe it will use the same moniker.
But as far as the original Thunderdome, well, it’s about that time to say goodbye.
Last week, a number of Mountain View boys basketball alumni got together for a pre-game dinner at a local restaurant and then attended the basketball game against Prairie.
Next week, the girls will play the final scheduled regular-season game at the Thunderdome against Kelso. A number of alumni are coming to that Feb. 8 game, including at least one who will be flying in from another region of the country.
Adam Mathieson, the athletic director at the school, said there will be moments to celebrate alumni and memories of the old gym on Tuesday. He encouraged community members to come out, to visit the old gym one final time.
Mountain View High School is getting a new school, including a new gym, set to open prior to the 2022-23 academic year.
The old school, including the gym, will be demolished soon after this academic year ends.
“It’s strangely emotional for me,” said Leta Meyer, who started coaching at Mountain View in 1982, soon after the school opened. In that gym, she helped volleyball and girls basketball teams to memorable achievements.
“I spent many, many, many hours there with the kids. Lots of games, winning championships. The agony of defeat happened there as well,” Meyer said. “I feel a tie to Mountain View. When I go into that gym, it’s like going home.”
Meyer retired as Heritage’s athletic director and has said she bleeds purple and green and blue and green for her time at both schools. She asked Mathieson to save her a piece of board from the court.
JC Alexander played for the Mountain View Thunder boys basketball team his senior year after moving to Vancouver from Portland. He fell in love with the program and community instantly. Today, he is the boys basketball coach.
“This environment at Mountain View, with all the teachers and staff that were there, it really felt like family, felt like home,” Alexander said. “I grew up in Portland, but Mountain View really felt connected.”
The coaches at the time, head coach Mike Cranston and assistant Todd Spike, are still friends with Alexander today. Alexander said their mentorship has helped him become a better coach.
Now, he is one of the head coaches at Mountain View that gets to usher in a new era.
“This is pretty special to be a part of,” Alexander said of the farewell to the old gym. “And then to be here to open up (the new gym) next year. To reconnect with the alumni to see what was and bring them in next year to see what will be. It really connects the past to the future and allows our younger kids to start creating those legacies and those memories in a place that is going to be theirs.”
Former coaches, a former game official, and former players shared stories last week at Main Event Sports Grill. They were excited to go to the gym one last time.
“The Thunderdome, for me, was just really good times,” said Brandon Johnson, Class of 2004. “We only lost seven times in the course of three years. Thunderdome was everything for us. We’ve become brothers, still talk to the day. Thunderdome is a big family.”
Matthew Mosback, Class of 2002, noted the unconventional drills that Cranston asked his players to perform in practice in that gym. Football shoulder pads and helmets for rebounding drills? Hmmm.
“Thunderdome was where boys became men,” Mosback said.
Those drills worked.
“We were able to take down Evergreen a couple times my senior year,” Mosback said. “Fans stormed the court. Standing room only. It was wild. I’ll never forget some of those times we had. Lifelong memories.”
Ryan Johnson, Class of 2012, remembers going to Mountain View-Evergreen games in “a packed house” when he was in elementary school. Then he got to play four years of varsity when it was his turn.
“Kind of cool to watch all of that,” he said.
Mountain View boys basketball teams made it to state seven times, placing third in 1986 and seventh in 1996.
The Mountain View girls basketball teams went to state six times, finishing second in 1995, fourth in 1996, third in 1997, and seventh in 2001.
Mountain View volleyball has gone to state three times, the first in 1987 and the last time in 2018.
The records will carry over to the new gym, but Meyer said it just won’t feel the same to her and the old-school Thunder.
But that’s OK, too. Progress has to be made.
“I’m happy for Mountain View. Definitely needed a new school,” Meyer said.
Newer, smaller gym next year
An interesting note about the basketball court inside the current Thunderdome: It’s 94 feet. A regular court for high school basketball is 84 feet. College basketball teams, such as Gonzaga, often used the Thunderdome gym for walk-throughs before playing games at the University of Portland. Teams liked that the floor was the same dimension that is used in college basketball.
It was also an advantage for the Thunder. Meyer said she ran an up-tempo offense when she was the Mountain View coach.
“When Heritage opened, I tried to get them to put in a 94-foot floor,” she said.
That was a Mountain View thing.
And after this season, it will be a thing of the past.
The new gym floor will be 84 feet, Mathieson said.