With close to a week to go before the grand opening of the new Carlton Comprehensive High School gym, Sask. Rivers School Board looked back on the events that made the gym possible.
© Herald file photo
Carlton High School’s new gym, seen here under construction last summer, will have a grand opening celebration on Jan. 30.
Carlton School was built in the 1970s and opened as a Grades 10-12 school in 1975,” board chair Barry Hollick explained.
“When it opened the only people taking compulsory physical education were the Grade 10s,” Hollick said. “I guess they felt at that time the gym space was sufficient for a Grade 10 to 12 school.”
There were two gyms in the school -- one that was built in the 1960s when the school was a technical high school and another larger gym that was built in the 1970s.
In the early 2000s, the school switched to a Grades 9-12 school, adding more students to Carlton who were required to take physical education classes and putting more demand on the two gyms in the school.
“It became the largest high school in the province and we had gym space that was designed there for a 1975 building so we were badly in need of a new facility,” Hollick said.
As soon as Grade 9 students are added to the mix, Hollick said, the demand for the gym space went up. There were both junior and senior sports teams, as well as more students taking mandatory gym classes.
“We have a lot of kids who are bussed in so if they couldn’t do the activity at noon or right after school, it meant many of them were denied a chance at participating,” Hollick said. “By building the new gym we are going to have (more space).”
The board that was in place at the time and were elected in 2005 decided to look into building a new gym facility for the school.
“We have 33 schools in our system but we saw the need at Carlton because we had students coming back late at night just for practices because there were so many demands on the gym space that was there,” Hollick said. “We decided this was an initiative that had to be done.”
“We decided we were going to build the gym and appeal to the provincial government for financial support to get it built,” Hollick said. “That, we thought, was going to be fairly straightforward.”
Plans started to be made to build a new gym and AOBDT, the architecture firm that worked on the Art Hauser Centre, was hired to design a building.
“We thought one of the things we wanted to do was ensure there was glass and windows,” Hollick said. “We really liked the design of the Art Hauser … they made that building look totally different with the glass entry.”
Although the windows are in the entrance and not in the gym itself, Hollick said it helped make the design of the building more appealing.
“The board made the decision we were going to go ahead with the gym for the school division for the benefit of the students at Carlton, which meant we had to come up with funding,” Hollick.
At first, they did not receive permission from the provincial government to add a gym onto Carlton. The board members continued lobbying for the gym every chance they had, meeting with local MLAs and speaking to the ministers of Education and Finance about the need.
“Our government is very familiar with the growth in Regina and Saskatoon,” Hollick said. “In Prince Albert, our population has remained pretty much the same for the last 10 years. There is very little growth here. I don’t think in Regina they saw the need for the gym as much as we saw the need for the gym.”
When school board elections came around again in 2009, some of the board members remained while new members soon supported the project.
“Once they toured the building and saw the programming at the school, they really saw the need,” Hollick.
They soon discovered the gym would cost an estimated $15 million to complete, so even with provincial government support the school division would still have to put in some money.
“We are fortunate in the Sask. Rivers School Division because of our past successes in dealing with our revenues,” Hollick said. “We were able to accumulate reserve funds for a number of years so we had several million dollars that we were able to put towards this fund.”
The provincial government pitched in $8 million and the school board added $6.9 million of their own money.
“Our annual budget is about $98 million -- the fact that we had that much in reserves was not only a credit to this board but the previous boards who had been able to through (good) financial management of the school division, put away for money for this purpose,” Hollick said.
After approval was granted and Quorex was hired to build the facility, both the superintendent of facilities Mike Heard and director of education Robert Bratvold worked hard on the project.
“We are very pleased with the project, we are pleased it was completed in a timely fashion and there were no major delays on it and the school board is looking forward to the opening of the building,” Hollick said.
The gym is larger than the current gyms at the school -- Hollick said it is the size of two basketball courts so technically two gym classes or practices could be held at the same time.
“The students are going to be getting that fitness element in school that is so important,” Hollick said.
There will also be many benefits to the entire community, he said.
“Prince Albert has never had a gym facility large enough to host provincial competitions,” Hollick said. “Provincials have been held in Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw even. Prince Albert hasn’t hosted them because we never had the gym space.”
There will also be economic benefits to the community, since the gym will allow the city to host larger events.
“It is going to be good for our community because they are going to realize the economic benefits to this but also our students are going to be able to see good competitive sports at the provincial level in our city,” Hollick said.
The gym will be used in the upcoming Saskatchewan Winter Games as the athletes’ village and can seat 1,200 spectators.
“Now if you have an event you can seat 1,200 people to watch a sporting event, which is really significant,” Hollick said.
There will be a grand opening on Jan. 30, with dignitaries, students and some visiting Grade 8 students who may chose to go to Carlton next school year.
Although it is a grand opening celebration, Hollick said it cannot be open to the public since there will be 1,600 students from Carlton, along with many special guests.
He suggests anyone interested in seeing the new gym, to drop by during one of the upcoming sports tournaments or head out during the winter games.
Hollick said they will not be planning any more projects of this size in the near future.
“When the school was designed we had a lot of classroom space there,” Hollick said. “I think we topped out at 2,000 students at one point and we don’t have that number presently.”
“Lots of the other needs that have evolved since the Grade 9s were added into the school, the board has been able to do as we go, but this facility is a substantial project that requires provincial government approval,” Bratvold added.