After passing through the hands of different owners over the years, Fort Scott’s old middle school building was purchased by Paul Feeney of Southern California in 2011, with the plan of opening an entertainment center in the almost century-old building.
While that plan started with a five-year completion process in mind, personal issues have delayed that opening of The REAL School of Hard Knocks, possibly by a couple years. But Feeney said Fort Scott residents have no reason to believe the building will again be neglected.
“It’s a huge project,” Feeney said of the idea for the school, which he thought of during a time of “temporary insanity,” according to him.
After years of working in Southern California, Feeney said he wanted to branch out from the normal 9-5 job and instead hold one that he enjoys and benefits society, whether he makes money off it or not.
“It’s not about making money,” Feeney said. “It’s really about giving back to the community.”
Feeney said he first looked at purchasing a school building in other states, but when he heard about the one available in Fort Scott and visited the town, he decided to invest in that city instead.
“I fell in love with the town,” Feeney said of Fort Scott, saying he looks forward to moving away from the congested area he lives in currently, where he is waiting for his house to sell. “One of the things I love about the town is the people.”
Since buying the building, Feeney has traveled between California and Fort Scott to help oversee the renovations with his onsite team whenever he can, living in the upper floor of the middle school building. While the work slowly progresses, Feeney said the city and its leaders have been very supportive of the project.
Though the opening day of the entertainment center may not come until 2018, the centennial year of the building, Feeney said in the meantime they have hosted different concerts and events there such as air-soft gun battles for youth in the area.
Though his plans for the building continue to adjust as he keeps tabs on what is popular among youth, Feeney said the entertainment center will likely provide options such as a trampoline park, laser tag, arcade and possibly go-carts, while they will leave the auditorium as it is for concerts. Individuals could come to play or it could be rented out for larger parties.
“We’ve had a setback, but not a derailment,” Feeney said. “We will catch up. I’m determined.”
Feeney said they continue to hold on to the goal of keeping the history of the building alive and improving its physical appearance while also providing a new means of entertainment for local families.