he saying among school administrators is that if you create space, a principal will fill it with something.

In a few months, new Center Grove principal Jeff Henderson will have plenty of new space to fill.

Construction of Center Grove’s student activity center is moving along as planned, with a target completion date of Nov. 3.

The project was a response to the district’s growing need for space as enrollment continues to rise. In recent years, such activities as dance team practices and pingpong club meetings have been relegated to the hall space outside the main gymnasium. The fieldhouse space can be divided up to give each of those clubs a proper home.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

“It just gives us huge flexibility,” assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

The main room of the complex will include four regulation basketball courts and a six-lane, 200-meter track on the ground level, with a two-lane walking track around the perimeter overhead. The basketball goals and the volleyball nets all will be suspended from the ceiling, alleviating the need to waste more space on equipment storage.

The new athletics training station will sit between the main fieldhouse and the newly expanded weight room, which at 8,100 square feet will be approximately 40 percent larger than the previous space.

The temporary space next to the upper level of the main gymnasium that is being used as the weight room during construction will remain in use as a speed and agility training area.

With the six-lane track, Center Grove now will be able to host indoor meets before the spring season officially starts and conduct more winter conditioning workouts — and it will have one of the few places in the state where pole vaulters can practice indoors, a luxury usually reserved for major collegiate programs.

Many of the biggest beneficiaries of the new space will be non-athletes, though.

The robotics club already has asked to use the activity center to host large competitions, and the dance team will have a better option than practicing in the hallway. Other groups, such as band, percussion and flag, also will be able to use the space for practices rather than waiting for overbooked gyms in the winter.

The four courts in the fieldhouse can all be separated by curtains, enabling multiple groups to practice in the complex at the same time.

Long said that the school district will probably not begin booking the space until after the holiday break. That time gap will allow time for any minor fixes that need to be made and ensure that the facility is fully ready for use.

Once it is ready, a wide range of Center Grove sports teams and other clubs will be taking advantage of it — and while high school activities will be given top priority, elementary and middle school groups, as well as other community groups, also will have some opportunities to use the space.

“Even with all this space, we still won’t have enough space for all of the community teams that want space for practice,” athletics director Jon Zwitt said.

A master schedule will be kept by the school district’s operations department, with input coming from each of the Center Grove schools.

Unlike some other schools that use their fieldhouse spaces for athletics competition, Center Grove plans to keep those instances to a minimum. Freshman basketball and volleyball will likely compete in the new space, largely because it’s closer to the main gym than the West Gym is — but with no permanent seating, the area wasn’t designed to accommodate many spectators.

“We gained space for being more multipurpose,” Long said, “but we gave up seating to be able to do that. We felt like if this was really for the kids, then we needed to have as much space as we could possibly get.”

With most of the major construction work completed, the student drop-off area on the northeast side of the school should be clear once school starts, as should the driveway running between the student activity center and the football stadium — both of which were being worked on a year ago.

Interior work is being completed from the top down. The ceiling has been painted and lights have been installed, and the basketball and volleyball goals are currently being put in. The track, courts and other flooring will go in last in order to minimize the damage that the construction does to those surfaces.

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.