The Paly Voice

School Board considering proposal for new athletic facilities

Edward Mei, Jack Shapiro, and Jared Schwartz

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A new proposal to build a new $20 million, largely donor-funded athletic complex has been presented to the Palo Alto school board and will be explored in the coming months, according to Assistant Principal Kim Diorio.

The proposal came up about two months ago when an anonymous donor offered to fund the project. The previous plan had been to rebuild and enlarge the small gym, along with a new weight room connecting both gyms, but there had been no money allocated for the building of a new gym in the current construction budget, according to Diorio.

Under the new proposal a modern complex would be built, containing two large basketball courts and a new pool, according to Diorio.  It would also include a weight room nearly three times the size of the current one.

A lease-leaseback arrangement would allow the complex to be built much faster than would normally be possible, according to Diorio. By leasing the land to the donor during construction, it would allow for the hiring of a private architect and private company before the land is then leased back. Diorio said this would make the timetable for the project eight months to one year from groundbreaking until its completion.

The architect would likely be the same one that designed the Menlo High School gym recently, according to Diorio.

The offer was put up for questions at the school board meeting on Tuesday and was reviewed earlier Wednesday at a facilities steering committee meeting.  It will also be discussed in a community meeting on Feb. 21 to get “community input or ideas,” according to Diorio. The plan will eventually be brought back to a later school board meeting, and will be voted on for approval.

The proposal is sure to generate some controversy, as one scenario has the historic big gym being torn down. Another alternative would be to build on top of the existing small gym and pool.

“The problem with that [the alternative scenario] is accessibility,” Diorio said. “Even right now it’s hard to access [the small gym] from the parking lot. So the preferred plan would be to use the whole space.”

As of now, there are no clear plans for what to do with P.E. classes and athletic teams while the new complex is being built.

“We haven’t gotten that far but we would have to get creative with using some other space,” Diorio said.  “We would probably have to look at other venues in the city or at other schools — maybe Jordan, JLS or Gunn for a year.”

However, thanks to the expedited nature of the project, it would only disrupt one season for sports teams, according to Diorio.

Diorio said the next month or two will be spent working out the conceptual design and the schematics, should the plan be approved by the school board. The proposal then must be submitted to the Department of State Architecture, and once approved, construction may begin.

The target completion date for the project is August of 2015, according to Diorio. But for now, the long road to a transformation of the Paly athletics facilities is just getting underway.

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