As the student population has grown at Center Grove High School over the years, the school’s athletic teams and other activities were faced with a space crunch.

Cheerleading and dance teams, for example, were often forced to practice in hallways due to a lack of available gym space. The girls tennis team had to go across the street to Center Grove Middle School Central to do preseason conditioning.

Now, a new student activity center on the south end of the high school campus is adding 59,500 square feet of space for school and community use. That includes four more basketball and volleyball courts, a six-lane indoor track and a two-lane walking track, as well as nearly 3,000 square feet of additional space for the weight room.

Being able to move more practices into the center during the winter months immediately opened up other gymnasium space for different groups. That means no more hallway practices for cheerleaders, and it also means that the school’s indoor percussion and remote control flying clubs now have more access to the Vandermeer Gymnasium, which was rarely an option in the past.

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“Really, it’s just all come together,” Center Grove Superintendent Rich Arkanoff said. “The way it’s laid out has really just been perfect. Lots of people say, ‘Would you do anything different?’ And I can’t think of anything I’d do differently.”

School officials first proposed the $10 million center in 2015. A group of residents started a petition and remonstrance process to try to stop the project. That led both supporters and opponents of the project to host dueling petition drives to get the most signatures. About 4,800 signatures were gathered in all, with residents who supported the project accounting for more than 60 percent of the signatures.

Construction began in August of 2016, and the main space opened to high school physical education classes on Jan. 8. School officials said the center came in under its $10 million budget, but did not yet have specific figures.

Being able to create more space for teams and clubs means that the overall activities schedule can be compacted, and students aren’t forced to be at school late at night for meetings or practices. Most in-season activities can now practice simultaneously right after school, officials said.

“The efficiency with which we can conduct all of the activities that we need to conduct has greatly increased,” Center Grove High School principal Jeff Henderson said. “Most of our groups are done by 8 p.m., whereas they were running much later than that prior to this space being built.”

The main fieldhouse space includes four regulation-size basketball courts orbited by a six-lane, 200-meter track on the ground level. A two-lane walking track, which circles the courts on the upper level, is available for community use in the mornings and evenings. The basketball goals and the volleyball nets are all suspended from the ceiling, alleviating the need to waste space on equipment storage and cutting down on setup time for teams. Rather than having players spend time setting up a volleyball net, for example, a coach can drop the net from above with the push of a button.

“It really adds efficiency in terms of setup, and that’s a really positive thing for our coaches and our kids,” Henderson said.

The high school’s weight room, which is adjacent to the new fieldhouse space, also grew to 7,639 square feet, an approximate 40 percent increase over the 4,737 square feet that had been available prior to the renovation. The expanded space has been in use since the students returned from Thanksgiving break. All of the old squat racks and benches, as well as many of the weight plates, were traded in for new equipment as part of the overhaul.

The new weight room is a vision Marty Mills, the longtime strength and conditioning coordinator at the high school, has had for more than a decade, he said.

The new space won’t change how Center Grove’s athletes train, but will allow more athletes to use the equipment simultaneously without overcrowding.

“We’re not doing anything different. We’re just doing it better and more efficiently with more space and with more kids,” Mills said. “During the summer, I could never work out the whole football team in here (before).”

In between the main fieldhouse and the weight room is a small station for the school’s athletic trainers to use. The room will serve as a more convenient secondary alternative to the main athletic training offices, located in the hallway between the Vandermeer Gymnasium and the swimming pool.

With the exception of the upper-level walking track, the complex is not yet available for community use. Rental guidelines are still being discussed and officials are trying to get a feel for the school district’s requirements, Henderson said.

In February, for example, the track and field teams are in the fieldhouse from 3 to 6 p.m. every weekday and for two hours each Saturday morning. Baseball, tennis and golf teams are also using the space for preseason workouts several days a week at various times, and the Power Club — an introduction to strength training for students first through eighth grade — uses the complex four evenings a week from 5 to 6 p.m.

When the weather warms up and the spring sports teams can practice outside, that will open up more chances for other organizations, such as the color guard, drill teams or robotics club, to use the new space, Henderson said. The robotics club already has a competition planned there for 2019.

After giving priority to high school classes and extracurricular organizations, Arkanoff said he believes that the new space will be able to benefit everyone in the Center Grove community.

“This is not a competition facility for us; it’s more of a practice facility,” he said. “So if our teams are out on the road or performing in house, that’s going to be available, so I think we’ll see a lot of opportunities for community programs to utilize that space.”

Attend the open house

Center Grove High School will host an open house. Visitors will be able to tour the new fieldhouse space, as well as the upgraded weight room.

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday

Where: New student activity center, located on the south end of the campus of Center Grove High School, 2717 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood.

Also: Any members of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame who wish to pick up their original photo can do so at the open house if they RSVP. For more information on the open house, visit https://www.centergrove.k12.in.us/Page/11474

Open to the public

The new student activity complex at Center Grove High School features a two-lane walking track on the upper level that is available on weekday mornings and evenings for White River Township residents.

The track is accessible through Door 7 and can be used during the following hours:

5 to 6:30 a.m., Monday through Friday

6 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday

About the facility

Center Grove High School opened its new student activity center for school corporation use in January. A glance at some of what’s inside the approximately 59,500 square feet of new space:

  • Four regulation basketball/volleyball courts, with nets for both sports that drop down from the ceiling
  • A six-lane, 200-meter running track circling the courts
  • A two-lane walking track on the upper level
  • Additional weight room space, expanding the previous room from 4,737 to 7,639 square feet
  • A secondary work center for the school’s athletic trainers, located in between the main fieldhouse space and the weight room
Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.