The Final Farewell: Big Gym scheduled for demolition on Monday

    Nearly a year and a half after its farewell ceremony, Palo Alto High School’s 86-year-old Big Gym will be demolished on Monday, according to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson.

    Palo Alto High School's new sports complex will feature two multi-level gyms connected by a hallway, several locker rooms, a concession stand, an athletic store, a dance and yoga room, a ticket booth and a wrestling room. "It has every possible thing an incredible sports program needs," Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson said. Screenshots by Jeanette Wong.

    Palo Alto High School’s new athletic center will feature a multitude of sports facilities, including two multi-level gyms, a wrestling room and an athletic store. “It has every possible thing an incredible sports program needs,” Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson said. Photos by Tolbert Design Architects.

    The construction project was initially slated to start in the summer of 2014. But, according to Berkson, it was continually delayed due to issues with the bureaucratic process.

    “It [the entire construction process] is more than just a handshake,” Berkson said. “It’s a leaseback — technically the construction company buys the property from us and then we get it back later. There’s a lot of legal work to go through.”

    The architecture firm behind the highly anticipated new gym, Tolbert Design Architects, first presented its designs at a Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education meeting in 2013. The state-of-the-art sports complex will be U-shaped, featuring two connected multi-level gyms, a “Hall of Fame” corridor, several locker rooms, a concession stand, an athletic store, a dance and yoga room, a ticket booth and a wrestling room. According to Berkson, there may be some minor enhancements to the pool area, such as scoreboards or electrical outlets, but pool facilities will not undergo any major reconstruction.

    According to Berkson, assuming that there are no unforeseen changes, the parking lot off of Churchill Avenue will remain at its current parking space capacity. It is even possible that several spots by the East side of the gym may open up once it is torn down, Berkson said.

    Although it may not look like it from the outside, construction plans are already well underway inside the gym. According to Berkson, the construction team disassembled the gym floor, so that pieces of it could be sold at a fundraiser hosted by the Paly Sports Boosters. Also, a HazMat [Hazardous Materials] crew has already removed any hazardous materials from inside the gym, Berkson said.

    Construction workers work on the water pipes near the Big Gym on Friday afternoon. Photo by Cooper Lou.

    The construction crew works on the water pipes near the Big Gym on Friday afternoon. According to Berkson, the gym reconstruction project is projected to finish in two years. Photo by Cooper Lou.

    “[On Monday,] you’ll see a physical tear down,” Berkson said. “It will be like a bulldozer-type thing … during school hours. I don’t think it will be that loud — the loudest thing will just be the reverse beeping sound of the bulldozer.”

    The proposed complex is scheduled to finish by Fall 2017. “If I had to bet, it’s going to finish in less than two years,” Berkson said. “There’s a better chance of it finishing sooner, rather than later.” Photos by Cooper Lou. Graphic by Jeanette Wong.

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