(COVINGTON, La.) — A new gym on the St. Paul’s School campus, long awaited by students, is scheduled to be built this summer to accommodate the growing student body and provide athletic teams additional space.
“For some time now, we’ve needed a new gym. The school has grown to where we need a larger facility,” Principal Trevor Watkins, a leader in the project’s development, said.
Watkins added that the new space will be used for much more than allowing President Bro. Ray Bulliard, FSC, to deliver his classical music homilies during school assemblies.
“We need an air conditioned facility, a larger facility for basketball and wrestling, and additional weight room and locker room space. We evaluated the current facility, and after research, we found that we needed a new gym,” Watkins said.
Space is one of the most pressing issues with the Gene Bennett Sports Complex, or “G-Plex,” consisting of the gym, wrestling room, locker rooms, and weight room. Seating in the gym is estimated to be at 850 persons. The new gym, designed by the Fauntleroy Latham Weldon Barré architectural firm, will be able to seat approximately 1,050 people.
“Our wrestling and basketball teams overlap in terms of their practices because we don’t have enough space. We have practices going late into the night. The new gym will give us two full courts when the bleachers are retracted,” Watkins said.
This space issue has cut into the effectiveness of the Health and Physical Education program. When the new gym is completed, Watkins says it will boost the effectiveness of the program.
“It will allow our basketball teams and P.E. classes to have dressing rooms dedicated to them. There will also be a dedicated Health classroom. Right now, they have to move around,” Watkins said.
P.E. classes and the basketball program are expected to be the main users of new gym space. The old gym area will be used for the wrestling and powerlifting programs, as well as additional locker room space. Lower level squads who previously had been hit with hard practice schedules should see an improvement in their experience.
“All of the teams will have to coordinate practice times, but logistically, it will be better for everyone. Our guys will be able to get out at a decent hour,” Watkins said.
According to Watkins, some utility work and simple preliminary work not requiring a permit has already begun on campus. The old art room behind the theater is slated for demolition, and once St. Paul’s receives the construction permit from the City of Covington, they will break ground on the new facility.
“At this time next year, if everything goes according to plan, (students) will be in a new gym,” Watkins said.