School District Moving Forward With Gym

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

A proposed auxiliary gymnasium at Glenwood Community High School took two steps closer to coming to fruition at last Monday’s Glenwood Community District Board of Education meeting.

The board voted 4-1 to proceed with the design and financing phase for the new gym, which would be on the north side of the building and would house a new locker room and allow for an expanded weight room and wrestling room.

The board has already sent out 13 proposals to architectural firms to design and put cost figures to the project. Prior to Monday’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the board held a work session where a representative from the district’s accountants at Piper Jaffrey discussed revenue bond options for financing the new gym.

The cost of the new gym is expected to run between $3.5 - $4 million.

Glenwood Community School District Superintendent Devin Embray said the auxiliary gym would include a full-length basketball floor, seven or eight rows of bleachers on both sides of the court, a 3,000-square foot locker room area and 3,000-square foot wrestling and weight room area above the locker room.

The district has said their hope is the addition of a full-size gym will benefit student athletes and their families by cutting down on the number of students who have to participate in early morning or late evening practice sessions. Other benefits of having an additional gym, according to GCHS Activities Director Jeff Bissen, is it would allow Glenwood to host more girl/boy basketball doubleheaders and tournaments, eliminate the need to transport students to other schools for their practices,  allow for an expanded wrestling and weight room and extra practice time to sharpen individual skills like shooting jump shots or free throws.

The district emailed surveys to district parents over the last few weeks to gage interest in the gym project. As of last week’s meeting the district had received 124 responses to the survey. Of the responses, Embray said, 72.5 percent (90) supported building an auxiliary gymnasium.

“It was pretty positive,” he said. “We had a lot of results that came in and people were very excited about the project and glad we were moving forward with it. We obviously had some negative responses. The survey exposed some misinformation on how things are funded and different priorities in the district.”

Late last week the district sent out an email clarification of how the district would pay for the new auxiliary gym that detailed how the district’s Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) monies can be used for capital improvements such as the auxiliary gym.

“We just wanted to better clarify,” Embray said.

“We had a group of people that were for the gymnasium but because they had information that wasn’t accurate, they weren’t in favor of it unless other things were happening (around the district). And once they realized those things were happening, it clarified the information for them.”

The district will pay for the new gym with a revenue bond financed with the district’s SAVE dollars it receives through a one-cent sales surtax. These funds are currently being used for reducing existing bond issue debt as well as technology and building improvements in the district.

According to figures provided by the district, the school district estimates annual payments on the gym will be about $250,000 per year until 2029 with a payback of about $1.2 million in interest.

The auxiliary gymnasium was part of the original high school blueprint when construction plans for the $21.5 million high school were finalized in 2007, but the district didn’t have the funds to include the project.

The school board will meet at least twice more before finalizing the revenue bonding process before the project is put out to bid.

Also appearing at Monday’s meeting was Glenwood City Administrator Brian Kissell and Mary Gunderson from the pool committee. Both were on hand to discuss the city’s intention to build a public swimming pool adjacent to the high school.

Over the last several months, the district has had informal conversations with the city about the possibility of using the locker room area of the new gym as the outdoor swimming pool’s “bath house.”

Utilizing the locker room for swimming pool purposes would require an additional hallway to be constructed in the gymnasium building. The extra hallway, Embray said, would be paid for by the city and would have to be included in the gym project at the time architectural and financing plans are finalized.

Kissell said the city hopes to have a bond issue to jointly finance a public swimming pool and new fire station on a March 4, 2014, bond issue ballot.
Kissell said while the price tag of those two projects are yet to be determined, he estimates the city’s costs to fit the locker room with the needed changes to utilize it as a pool house would range between $50,000 - $150,000.

Embray said ground-breaking on the gym would likely take place in fall 2014 with the facility completed in time for the start of the 2015-2016 school year.