By RENEE WEBB
Students, faculty, staff and alumni were among those gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 19 for the new gymnasium at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City.
According to Tom Betz, vice president for advancement, the groundbreaking was a celebration, not only for the final phase of the building project, but for all those who made the new high school possible.
The gym represents the third phase of the new Heelan. The first phase was a $15 million fine arts building and new chapel that opened in 2014 and the second phase featured a $12 million academic classroom addition opened in January of this year.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Bishop Walker Nickless of the Diocese of Sioux City spoke of the many good things that have happened at the school. He thanked the parents for their belief in Catholic education and donors for their generosity. The bishop blessed the site and led prayer.
“Let this building be brought to its completion, according to your mercy,” the bishop prayed to God. “Protect and defend from injury all who labor in this task. And grant that all who will attend activities and sporting events in this gym in future years be open to the gift of faith, be committed to the vocation you will give each one and be dedicated to serving your children in every need.”
Katey Namanny, student body president, spoke about the significance of a gymnasium in student lives and how it’s a place where memories are made.
“The gym isn’t just about athletics, it’s where many other things will happen like our service project that happens annually – Then Feed Just One,” she said. “Many memories are formed at the games, not just the athletes but those who are a part of the student section.”
With the numerous activities held in the gym from show choir events to assemblies, Namanny said the gym is a place where students can form community and use their God-given talents.
The bishop, students and coaches were among those to take a shovel and break ground on the top-loading gym that will be equipped with air conditioning. It will feature bleachers to seat 1,600, a running and walking track, girls and boys lock rooms, coaches’ offices, officials’ locker room and athletic training room.
Chris Bork, principal of Bishop Heelan High School, said they have been working on the construction project for so many years this final phase is somewhat of a relief. When the school opened the fine arts building a few years ago, some students had to cross the street to attend classes there and last winter when the academic wing opened he said students only had to cross back over to the original campus for physical education classes and strength-training.
“Now, almost every class will be under one roof,” the principal said. “It’s exciting from a learning standpoint and exciting from a security standpoint.”
During the ceremony, Bork said what stood out to him was the pride and passion for Bishop Heelan in not only current students but graduates.
Work has already begun on construction of the gym, which will be attached to the new academic wing of the school. The foundation is poured and, weather-permitting, the walls will soon go up.
“Our goal is to have it enclosed before Thanksgiving,” said Betz, who noted it will depend on Mother Nature.
While about $3 million has been raised for this phase of construction – which covers the actual building – fundraising efforts continue. They need to raise more than $500,000 to furnish the interior including, but not limited to, the gym floor, bleachers, scoreboards, PA system and support equipment for major music and other non-sport activities.
As a senior, Namanny realizes she and her classmates will not be able to use the new gym, “but given that the whole new school has been talked about forever, the fact that we can say it is being finished is so nice. I know I won’t be able to experience it in its whole, but the fact that other students can is really nice – we can start a new full tradition at this building rather than being in-between the new and the old.”
In the last 10 years, with the three phases of construction along with a new administrative building and work done at Memorial Field, Betz said nearly $32 million has gone into major improvement to the Bishop Heelan campus.
“It’s amazing the generosity that our families and alumni have made toward this project,” Betz said. “If all goes as planned and support continues like it has, we hope to have the entire project completed by Aug. 1.”