The ceremony was purposely held after the Labour Day weekend so students could walk over and participate in the ceremony.
Jullian Bird, a Grade 11 student-athlete, and two fellow peers gave speeches illustrating their appreciation for the new facility.
“In the gym we have, there isn’t enough room for athletes to come in and play,” said Bird, who plays senior ‘A’ football and basketball. “It’s mainly for basketball, so all they have is a corner to play their own sport.
“This gym will create more space for them to play their sport … It will help save time and create more space during games … There will be more practice time for everybody,” Bird added.
The $15-million project is currently underway, with construction and renovations expected to last between 14-16 months.
Mike Hurd, the superintendent of facilities at the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division (SRPSD) No. 119, said work would continue right through the winter.
“That’s why they’ll be in a big panic here to work hard and hope for a good fall like we had last year,” he said.
The province has invested more than $8 million in the project, with the balance coming from the school division.
Quorex Construction Ltd., which was awarded tender in early August, has removed the tennis court surface, taken down the lights and started cutting the surface.
The company will build an additional 2,350-square-metre gym and renovate 522 square metres of the existing gym service areas.
“We’re hoping very shortly to start on the piles — driving the timbers in. Approximately 400 timbers will go under that building to hold it up,” Hurd said.
“They’re going to try to get onsite and get organized over the weekend and start Monday morning driving piles — and they’ll be doing that for about 21 days straight,” he added.
Barry Hollick, board chair for the SRPSD, touched on the exchange that was made with the city with respect to removing the tennis courts.
“There was a joint area for city and school use, and the only way we could expand the gym to make it workable in the plan was we required the space,” he said. “The city co-operated with us. There are other areas in the city where they’re going to put the tennis courts that were here.”
Hollick also emphasized the importance of physical education.
“We had limitations on the participation level of our students here, because of the limited gym facilities,” he said. “We have a lot of students who are bussed in from the rural areas, and with the limitations on gym time that we’ve had, it meant that a lot of those students had to come in during ridiculous hours to participate.
“But by adding this expansion to Carlton, it’s really going to afford all kinds of students the opportunity to participate not only on school teams but also in extra curricular (activities) — and that’s what makes a well-rounded education,” Hollick added.
Hollick said the 1,200-capacity spectator seating will also make the school a more feasible choice for hosting provincial athletic events and other activities.
Mayor Jim Scarrow, who was also on hand for the sod turning, reflected Hollick’s sentiments and said Carlton Park Community Club would accommodate tennis players for now. He also said there may be a need for another tennis facility that is well maintained.
“This was a project that served a larger need,” he said. “It’s a facility that will work for the entire community, because it will be used heavily during the school days for intramural and team practices and physical education. But in the evenings, this facility will seat 1,200 people.”
About 2,000 students attend Carlton Comprehensive High School, making it the largest high school in the province.