After an unprecedented display of teamwork, the city of Novato and the Novato Unified School District are almost ready to unveil the new $7 million Hamilton Gymnasium, a joint-use facility.
The grand opening is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 12.
"A gym has been one of our top needs and priorities for years," said Pam Shinault, who runs the city's recreation department. "It's pretty exciting, also with the fact that it benefits students as well as the community and has a keen focus on active recreation opportunities."
Kid and adults who can't wait to play might not be giddy about the collaboration it took to get the place open, but city and school officials are giving each other knuckle bumps over the achievement.
"We're excited about this new gymnasium for Hamilton School and our partnership with the City to provide the children of Novato a gymnasium that can be used during the school day and a gymnasium for the community," said Shalee Cunningham, superintendent of NUSD.
City Manager Michael Frank added, "By two public agencies collaborating to leverage resources, we are creating and sharing a community recreation facility that helps support an active and healthy life for our children and residents."
The city secured a $1 million grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation that went toward the gym's construction on the grounds of Hamilton Meadow Park School at 5530 Nave Drive.
It will be a busy place once the doors open. For upwards of 80 hours per week, there will be basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, drop-in play and tournaments for all ages. Hours of operation are set for 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday for school and cafeteria use, then 4-11 p.m. for city-sponsored programs. The facility also will be available for rent.
The city and NUSD began discussing a joint project at Hamilton in the early 2000s, but it stalled because of a lack of funding and the need for a master plan for Hamilton Elementary. Both of those were taken care of to allow the project move forward, resulting in the first gym every built by the city and the first new school district gym in 35 years. There have been reciprocal-use agreements in place for decades, but this was the first pure joint venture. Shinault said it took about 18 months to draw up a specific reciprocal-use agreement and construction agreement.
"There are going to be certain times when there is a school function during the evening or maybe the weekend," she said. "They will have access during certain times for things like Back to School Night, nighttime assemblies, PTA events and maybe a summer program."
The city and school district have emphasized healthy living over the past few years, so the opening of the gym creates more opportunities to prove those commitments are paying off.
The city already operates two gyms — the old Hamilton gym that was part of the original Hamilton Army Air Force Base in the 1930s and the Hill Gym adjacent to the Margaret Todd Senior Center. Shinault said the city is assessing possibilities for selected upgrades at the old Hamilton gym.