Even in its unfinished state, the new Catholic High gym is a masterpiece of conference rooms and storage space, coaches’ offices and locker rooms and a spacious gym spread among 33,000 square feet.
Workers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on the $6.7 million project before the football season opener with Tallassee on Aug. 23. While the basketball facility and coaches’ offices could wait, the football locker room and weight room facility that occupies one wing of the gym can’t be used until construction work is completed on the facility.
There will be enough completed for a dedication on Aug. 11 at 4 p.m., even though work will continue behind the scenes for several more days.
There is enough completed at this point to give visitors an idea of the magnitude of the project. It is constructed in a similar style to the Edward L. Wood Gym at Carver featuring a weight room and coaches’ offices on one wing. But the fact the new Catholic gym is joined with the old one through a hallway – and nearly $1 million of the project will renovate, air condition and refurbish the old Father Pat Delahunty Gym – Catholic’s gym may be unmatched in central Alabama.
The old gym, constructed in 1968, will be converted into a fine arts facility, but the locker room and restroom facilities closest to the new gym will remain.
“The stage will be closed off, there will be doors that go out into the courtyard and that will be a senior lounge,” Catholic athletic director Daniel Veres said. “There will be a couple of big rooms in the (main part of the old gym), one for choral and one for band practice. All of the locker rooms will stay. They will be middle school locker rooms.”
The main entrance to the new gym features an open area between the concession area and the glass wall of the gym, creating an area where fans can eat while watching the game. The gym itself features plenty of room on all four sides, allowing bleachers to be placed behind the goals for student seating.
“This is probably three times as big as our other gym,” Veres said. “The concession stand is the size of two locker rooms. We’ll have the opportunity to sell much more food. They’ll be three TV monitors (in the concession area).”
In addition to the student seating on one end, there is chairback seating on parts of the home side along with a 16-foot scorer’s table.
“One of the biggest things is (the extra space for) volleyball,” Veres said. “Now we can run a volleyball tournament because there is a screen between the two (courts) so you can have two things going on side by side.”
The gym is constructed with side goals, as most gyms are, but the size of the gym allows regulation cross-court play in either basketball or volleyball, which also means both sports can practice simultaneously if necessary.
On one side of the gym are offices for girls’ sports – softball, basketball and volleyball – along with locker rooms and restrooms, while on the back side of the gym are offices for Veres, football coach Aubrey Blackwell, basketball coach Michael Curry, a large office for assistants and a large weight room, along with a locker room and restrooms that are adjacent to the end zone of the football field.
That will move the football players from the far end of campus in the field house to a wing of the gym.
“The field house will be the middle school football locker room,” Veres said, “and the visiting locker room on Friday nights.”
The completion of the gym will not signal the end of the project, however. There is a road that goes behind the gym in the area separating the gym from the end zone of the football field and school officials will have to work on that area as well to create a walkway from the gym to the stadium.
And the project to properly install the road will improve the drainage in a corner of the end zone as administrators contemplate the next phase of athletic improvements to the football stadium.
“We raised over $3.5 million before we started,” Veres said, “so we didn’t finance the whole amount to build this. There are a couple of more phases, an administration building out front and an auditorium they want to build, but what we’re really trying to push is we don’t have enough seats in our stadium.”