A worker strips layer after layer of lacquer and paint to reveal the gym’s bare wooden floor. Many students said they were shocked by the light color of the original maple panels, installed in 1973.

Benvenuti Gym receives long-awaited makeover; lighter, more comfortable plastic bleachers may bolster attendance at home games

The Benvenuti Gymnasium is getting a major facelift.

First the wooden bleachers were extracted on Nov. 10; the floor was stripped of its paint on Nov. 13; the broken tiles were replaced Nov. 17; and the hanging curtains were taken down the same week that the bleachers were removed.

The remodeling has been a long-time desire of the Sports Boosters, according to Stephen Repsher, who said he knew the gym needed work when he became headmaster 13 years ago.

“But there were other priorities at the time,” he said.

For instance, the more-than-40-year-old portables in the lower school had to be replaced, and a lot of the infrastructure needed repairs.

“But the gym was always on the to-do list,” Repsher said.

The Sports Boosters’ first plan was simply to replace the bleachers. But even that modest plan went undone because the school was focusing on fundraising for other projects, including the middle-school math and science building built in 2014-15, Repsher said.

However, the project got the go-ahead after the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees determined that remodeling the gym was a need for the school, and the Finance Committee determined that the school could afford the changes.

Repsher, who consulted with the groups, said he also worked closely with Jay Holman, director of the physical plant, and CFO Bill Petchauer to ensure that the school could support the project.

Initially, four-row bleachers instead of another set of three-row bleachers were considered. However, four-row bleachers would have meant that the basketball and volleyball court lines, the volleyball-pole holes and the basketball hoops would have had to be shifted to the west side of the gym to accommodate the extra row. These changes were too expensive and complicated, Repsher said.

Furthermore, the four-row bleachers would have been harder to retract, and they would have held only 15 additional fans.

Therefore, the school opted in late August to buy four plastic, three-row bleachers; one pair will replace the old bleachers, and the other will be directly across on the opposite side of the gym.With these four three-row bleachers, the fan-size capacity will grow from around 130 to around 280 people, according to Repsher.

Along with increasing the number of fans, the plastic bleachers will also be more comfortable because individual seats will be contoured, and the bleachers will be lighter and easier to put away, athletic director Matt Vargo said.

The groups also decided to update the overall look of the gym. This includes lightening the color of the floorboards, replacing broken ceiling tiles, buying new curtains to divide the gym and buying a motorized system to lift the curtains out of the way during sports practices and games.

The changes, which are expected to be finished by Friday, Dec. 11, will cost around $100,000, $30,000 of which was donated by the Boosters.

While the gym was under construction, volleyball practices were held in the Mather Sports Complex, and the girls’ last game against Stone Ridge Christian, Nov. 17, was at the Jackson Sports Academy.

Freshman Bella Mathisen, who played varsity volleyball, said that the different gym didn’t really faze the team.

“But a lot more people come to the games when it’s actually at home, and we feel a lot more comfortable when we play and practice in our gym,” she said.

The basketball teams will practice at Sports Courts Fitness (3727 Bradview Dr.) until the remodeling is finished. However, they will not play home games there because Vargo scheduled away games in the early season.

—By Madison Judd

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