Local entrepreneur to open cheer/dance gymnasium at old Talladega building in April

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

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Pattie Harrelson is no stranger to building something from scratch, whether it be a farm or a house. With that in mind, she said her recent project is far from a stretch for her.

The LaGrange resident has spent the past month reshaping the former Talladega Machinery and Supply building at 1504 Orchard Hill Road into the future Champion Training Academy, a competitive dance and cheer gymnasium that Harrelson hopes will have the potential to become a haven for children in the community this April.

“It’s very scary and exciting, but I really want this to become a fun, safe place for kids,” Harrelson, a veteran cheerleader and gymnast, said. “I screwed down every board in here, and it’s been hours and hours of work, and I want to make this happen.”

Some of Harrelson’s recent ventures include renovating her 1980s music studio and warehouse into a farmhouse and her pandemic-era fogging business, Fog Squad. She was also a gym teacher at Tumbletown 2.

The Talladega building was in stable shape when Harrelson and her husband bought it, she said, and they have spent most of their time and about $55,000 of their finances into building code changes and installing new carpet, painting the walls and transforming the building’s inner rooms into dancing space for her future students. The building’s largest warehouse space will be the main gymnastic area and include a parent-viewing area in the future.

Harrelson expects to install the building’s interior mirrors and bars before Champions’ grand opening in mid-April. Other fun amenities within the former warehouse will include a medal wall and possibly a photo room for students to relax in or do homework. Two of the dance rooms will also be used as “birthday rooms,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson called the location ideal for her vision, noting its comfortable distance from LaGrange and location to the highway.

“It feels like this warehouse was made for us,” Harrelson said.

“It has all the amenities we needed. And this location just feels safe, that’s really what I was looking for. Duracell’s right [beside us,] and there’s a huge, open field out back where we can do all kinds of things outside. It’s very accessible to Troup County [and other counties.]”

As noted on Harrelson’s website, championsga.com, classes will cost $99 for traditional classes, which will be one hour long four times a month and incorporate ages two to 15-years-old. The price tag will vary for competition-style classes, she added, but she hopes in the future to be able to pursue scholarship opportunities to help students balance the cost of classes.

With her background in cheerleading and four years as a gymnastics coach, Harrelson had wanted to pursue creating Champions for years. Following a religious revelation, she went full-speed into the project, weighing out the mental and physical stress with the benefits.

“I have a real heart and passion to make an impact in this community and change the lives of kids, not only physically, but spiritually too,” Harrelson said.

Champions will have at least seven coaches to start, Harrelson said, including Taylor Benton, who will teach gymnastic and cheerleading classes for boys and girls of all levels, she said. Taylor grew up and LaGrange and has stayed in the area all her life and noted the community’s need for a solid gym presence for up-and-coming gymnasts and dancers.

“I did competition [cheerleading] here and all of our gyms all left,” she recalled. “LaGrange was really big on cheer. The town would come to the competitions and post on social media to support the teams, and we’ve lost all of it. I feel like this is what LaGrange needs to keep kids out of trouble. I think there’s a possibility it could help kids turn their lives around.”

A LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting is planned for April 21, Harrelson said.

Interested participants can register for classes at Champions’ website.