After almost a decade of planning, construction will soon begin on the first new public gymnasium to be built in Novato since 1975.
Earlier this month, California’s Division of the State Architect approved plans for the estimated $7 million project at , which also includes a new school administration building and playground.
While the administration building will belong to the school district, the gym is a joint venture between the district and the city of Novato. That means it’ll be available for public use after school hours.
“The new gym is very exciting for us and the community,” said Ruthanne Bexton, principal of Hamilton school. “There haven’t been enough recreation facilities at this end of town for families and residents looking for sports activities in the summer and on weekends, for example.”
The gymnasium will feature something that no other city- or district-owned gym offers here in Novato: enough court space to allow two cross-court games at the same time.
“There will be one full size court and two smaller courts which can be separated by a curtain,” said Dave Ashe, NUSD construction manager.
In addition to the gymnasium, the 15,600-square-foot building will also house a new kitchen for the school’s food service as well as a small elevated stage for music performances and assemblies.
“In our present multipurpose room, we haven’t been able to hold assemblies together as a school community (because of the room’s inadequate size),” Bexton said.
While the new gym and administration buildings will be welcome additions to the school, the project is also opening the door to other much-needed changes on campus.
“This project is part of a larger plan that will create a much more functional school environment,” Bexton said.
Simply put, the school’s ballooning student body has outgrown its campus buildings. Bexton said when she arrived at the school almost nine years ago, there were about 300 students. Today, there are almost 700 with more to come as the school expands to a K-8 model.
Under the construction plan, the current multipurpose room will become a new library and media center with conference rooms for small group meetings. The current administration building, which houses the front office, staff room and library, will be turned into two large classrooms.
There will also be an additional school entrance and parking lot off Nave Drive, south of the new ball fields.
The city and the school district are sharing equally in the cost of gym construction. The city’s share comes from a $1 million state Healthy Communities grant. The rest is from residential development fees, according to Pam Shinault, Novato's director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.
The school district is footing the entire bill for the administration building and playground. Ashe said the money is coming from a fund containing developers’ fees.
Ashe said the gym and administration building project will go out to bid this month and groundbreaking is expected in late July. The school district did not want to release the architectural plans to the public until the after the bidding process begins.
Under the terms of the state grant, the gym must be completed by March 31, 2012.
“It’ll be tight, but everybody thinks it’s doable,” Ashe said.
The fate of the “old” , at 115 San Pablo Avenue, is still undetermined. Built in the 1930s, the single-court gym is owned by the city and is still used for youth and adult sports activities. Shinault said originally the plan was to demolish it after the new gym is built. However, she said if business partners come forward, the city may be able to keep it.