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St. Mary's Catholic School tackles big renovations to gym

By Meredith Shamburger
July 26, 2017 at 11:35 p.m.

St. Mary's Catholic School Athletic Director Lucy Knotts speaks about renovations to the gym in the Monsignor Szapka Sports Center at the Longview campus.

There's been more changes to the gymnasium at St. Mary's Catholic School in the past four months than there has been in its 35-year history.

Construction crews have been performing major renovations, including changing the basketball court floor, updating the locker rooms, expanding the concession stand and adding storage space. It's a long time coming, said Athletic Director Lucy Knotts.

"I would say in about 35 years, except for a new paint job, we hadn't had a whole lot of changes, so this is big for us and exciting," she said.

The gym at St. Mary's in Longview, dubbed the Monsignor Szapka Sports Center, opened in 1982. The 10,200-square-foot, 500-seat building cost about $600,000 to build, and church officials said then they hoped it would encourage greater participation in athletic events.

That's been the case for St. Mary's, which added high school grade levels several years — and all the high school athletic programs to go with it. The increase in athletes using the facility highlighted some problems, such as there were no showers.

Knotts said a shower area was the one thing students, especially the students who were practicing cross-country running in the morning before classes, told her they really wanted. So when asked to make a wish list of projects, showers were at the top.

"I said as soon as we redo the gym, that's going to be first on the priority list — before my office, I'm going to get you showers," she said. "I promised the kids showers; they're getting showers."

A major improvement that isn't visible is repairs to the gym's foundation. That started in April.

"That took a couple of weeks," Knotts said. "So with that, it was a whole, 'What else are we going to do?' "

In addition to adding three showers each to the boys' and girls' locker rooms, another office and extra storage space were added. The concession stand interior, previously about the size of a closet, has been expanded. The gym's lights have been rewired and replaced with LED bulbs. The air conditioning unit has been replaced as well.

The school and church officials also decided to add a new wooden floor, replacing the old composite one and adding a decal of the school's logo in the middle of the basketball court.

"Of course ,we had a vinyl one before, so the wood is new," she said. "They put it on top of our existing floor. So they put two layers of plywood and then they put this 3/4-inch thick wood floor as the top layer. It raised our floor probably 2 inches."

And then Knotts said the rest was little odds and ends, such as moving water fountains, adding a trophy case and painting. The goal is to get everything done by Aug. 1, just in time for high school student athletes to start their two-a-days practice.

"We've got a few minor things left to do: Touch-up paint, we're hanging some projectors and some TVs and some things, but we can start practice Aug. 1 because the floor's ready to go, which was our main thing," she said.

Knotts said the renovations add a lot of value to the athletic program.

"I think the kids were really proud of what we had, and I think their sense of pride's even going to be greater because of all the new stuff that's been put in, and it's all for them," she said. "And who's going to use the gym? It's going to be the kids."

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