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Opinion: Let Viking pride live on in the building of a new gym

Published March 3, 2013

The teams lined up on Senior Night as the lineups were announced. The Vikings went on to lose to Los Gatos in 5 sets.

Palo Alto High School’s gym, shown here on Oct. 30 during the volleyball team’s Senior Night, is likely to be remodeled thanks to an anonymous donor and finished as early as Aug. 2015. The gym’s unique design and history of harboring athletic achievement are aspects that the author hopes are passed on to the new building. Photo by Jack Shapiro.

Old. Rundown. Worn out. But iconic.

While Palo Alto High School’s 85-year-old main gym shows many signs of neglect and disrepair, one thing it has in abundance is spirit.

Walking into the gym, one can’t help but notice the dates pinned to the wall signifying the many championships Paly has won over the years, including the volleyball team’s back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011 and the football team’s state championship in 2010.  But perhaps more startling than our recent athletic dominance is the fact that this dominance isn’t so recent after all –  the oldest plaque in the gym reads “1899,” the year Paly won its first league championship in baseball. 1899, as in the nineteenth century.

While Paly’s main gym hadn’t been built quite that early (construction ended in 1928), the gym has seen countless athletes and fans pass through its doors. Trophy cases display programs from games back when Paly’s main color was red, walls sport hundreds of plaques commemorating league champions and proud banners hang to record Central Coast Section and state championships. With permanent bleachers that sit above the court and the entire interior painted shades of Viking Green, the gym is an icon for both Paly athletes and their opponents who have played there.  However, with the gym’s probable replacement funded by a private donor, this unique layout is set to be demolished, possibly taking the gym’s inherent spirit of pride and success with it.

First, I would like to send my deepest thanks to the anonymous donor who plans to give about $20 million so that the Palo Alto community can have a new gym. Paly’s gym has been falling apart for years. Loose floorboards on the stairs put unsuspecting fans in danger, low railings threaten to do nothing but mock the person who trips over them and the entire facility is covered in a layer of dust so thick that vacuums have nightmares thinking about it. Our gym is in need of an intense sprucing-up, and I am excited and thankful for the possibility of brand new athletic facilities.

However, I do hope that the special qualities of our gym can be transferred into the new facility.  When walking into our gym, it is impossible not to feel a sense of nostalgia.  With the eight or nine generations that have passed through its doors, a legacy of honor and success has been cemented into its foundation that is shared by the Paly students, alumni and fans which cheer on for our school, both athletically and academically. This sense of pride is vital to the Paly community and our gym is the perfect manifestation of our feelings.

It would be silly to invest in repairing the building due to its age; the cost of a facelift would, in the long run, be more than a brand new facility. In fact, due to this extremely generous gift, Paly has the potential to create a gym that will last for another 85 years, allowing for another eight or nine generations to add on to the legacy of our forefathers.

As a student, I do not expect nor deserve a say in the designs for a new gym. But if you, anonymous donor, are open to suggestions, I would love it if the walls were painted green, the bleachers were raised and the tradition and pride of Paly athletics continued for as long as the new building stands.


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