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.
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.
“[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.