The grand opening of Harker’s new athletic center drew more than 600 people Friday evening, as members of the Harker community and local media arrived to get an early look at the feature-rich facility.
Many at the event were new visitors, getting a first-time look at the 33,000-square-foot facility’s spectacular gym floor. Measuring 12,000 square feet, the floor is designed to allow two games to be played simultaneously and is situated 14 feet below ground to facilitate temperature control and reduce the building’s profile. The building’s HydroWorx underwater treadmill – the same kind used by orthopedic hospitals and NFL teams – is the first at any U.S. high school. It is situated alongside a HydroWorx 300 therapy pool and Grimm Scientific cryotherm pool.
“It’s the best of everything. It’s gorgeous, the lockers, the training room facilities, top of the line,” said Joe Cea, father of Dominic Cea, grade 12, adding that he “can’t wait to watch the games.”
In addition to its many benefits for Harker athletes and athletic faculty, the building also provides an ideal venue for assemblies and contains a large screen for streaming events. The spectator experience was also crucial to its design, with bleachers situated to enable a great line of sight to the action on the gym floor, a spacious promenade and an easily accessible snack bar. In keeping with Harker’s energy-conscious approach to designing and constructing new facilities, 25 percent of the electricity to both the athletic center and the Rothschild Performing Arts Center (opening in 2018) will be provided by a 140-kilowatt solar array.
“You really see the effort and the vision behind the whole gym,” said Simar Mangat ’13, one of many alumni in attendance. “To see the whole community here, I think there’s a lot of spirit that’s both in the walls of the building and in the people that are here.”
Attendees showed up in the early evening and enjoyed pizza and hot dogs while waiting for the gym to open to visitors. When the time came to open the building at about 7 p.m., ribbons at the entrance were cut by Harker’s Board of Trustees, along with the leaders of the construction effort, and the captains of the boys and girls basketball and volleyball teams. Throngs of people then walked through the entrance and eventually took their seats at the bleachers. Board of Trustees chair and former head of school Diana Nichols then joined faculty, donors and administrators on the gym floor, offering them many thanks for their hard work that made construction of the building possible.
Theresa “Smitty” Smith, longtime volleyball coach and lower and middle school athletic director, later stood on the court, flanked by members of the Nichols family and the upper school girls volleyball team. After Smith delivered a heartfelt dedication to former president Howard Nichols, the members of the volleyball team revealed that the 12,000-square-foot court had been named in Howard’s honor. The Nichols’ grandchildren then had the honor of being the first to dribble basketballs across the length of the court.
Harker facility director Mike Bassoni also had the chance to speak, giving the many in attendance a brief breakdown of the gym’s features while the girls volleyball team set up on the court. The team then played a practice game to the crowd’s delight.
“It is truly amazing, and I’m so glad that we came out as alumni,” said Sumit Minocha ’13. “Everybody seems so happy, I can really just sense the Harker spirit skyrocketing.”