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Sage Ridge honors gaming pioneer with gymnasium naming


Sage Ridge School, which announced last month a major expansion of its campus facilities, has revealed the namesake for its planned 13,000-square-foot gymnasium, included within the student activity center building. It’ll be named for northern Nevada gaming pioneer Ernest J. Primm, known as “Ernie” by most.

Primm’s family and friends have raised more than $2 million to fund the student activity center, which is expected to cost $7 million to construct. In return, Primm’s name will be attached to the gymnasium, as the Ernest J. Primm Gymnasium, as well as the court and northeast corner lounge within the building.

Ernest J. Primm, or “Ernie” to most.

Some may recognize the Primm name as connected to the southern Nevada town of Primm, which is located alongside Interstate 15 near the California border. In 1996, that town was renamed for Ernie Primm, who was an original developer of the area.

Primm’s impacts in northern Nevada are perhaps even greater. He’s credited for pioneering the start of Reno’s gaming industry in the 1950s and 1960s, opening The Primadonna Club in 1955, and transforming the region’s tourism industry.

“Ernie Primm was a Nevada gaming legend and pioneer whose contributions to both the Reno business and gaming community and to Northern Nevada are immeasurable,” said Sallie Armstrong, the chair of Sage Ridge School’s board of trustees.

Sage Ridge notes, “At one time, Primm owned the largest contiguous block of real estate in downtown Reno…The Primadonna Club was the first major casino allowed to cross what was then called the ‘red line’ and operate on the west side of Virginia Street.”

“Ernie’s impact on Reno makes this gift meaningful in many ways —it ties Reno’s past to Sage Ridge’s present and future and in a way that reminds our students and community to honor and recognize those who paved the way,” Armstrong said. “Ernie was a community leader and one of Reno’s early entrepreneurs who worked hard to achieve and accomplish all he did. Sage Ridge, each and every day, teaches our students to be leaders and provides them a path to achieve, innovate, and inspire others.”

The Primm family is contributing to the project with more than just funding. Cory Clemetson, who is the grandson of Ernie Primm, also serves on the school’s board of trustees. He’s leading the actual building and development of the facility.

Clemetson said he finds the project and his family’s affiliation with it rewarding, primarily for the positive impact it’ll have on students’ lives.

“This facility, once completed, is going to be incredible not only for Sage Ridge but for the entire northern Nevada community,” Clemetson said. “Many of my relatives have shared stories over the years with my brother, Chad, and me of our grandfather’s generosity and how he always gave back to communities in which he did business — especially when the charity supported youth sports.”

Primm’s son, northern Nevada businessman and philanthropist Roger Primm, agreed.

“Sage Ridge is focused on excellence, and my father always instilled in his children a respect for excellence,” he said. “I have grown up here and lived in this wonderful community nearly my entire life, and I have always felt my father and other gaming pioneers and business leaders have not been given the true recognition they deserve for taking a risk years ago and for paving the way for so many others. I am deeply grateful we are able to recognize my father in this meaningful way.”

Groundbreaking on the Student Activity Center is anticipated in May 2021, and the facility is slated for completion this coming winter.

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