The clock on New Trier High School’s Gates Gymnasium appears to be nearing its final buzzer.
The district’s board of education is expected to consider a motion during its Tuesday, Feb. 16 meeting to proceed with a large-scale project that will re-conceptualize the east side of the high school’s Winnetka campus, including the Gates Gymnasium.
Board members received updates regarding the proposed plans Feb. 8 during a committee of the whole meeting where district officials recommended proceeding with the project.
Current proposed plans call for the construction of a new, three-story athletics and kinetic wellness facility that will address what officials are calling “underinvestment over many years” of that side of the campus.
A $75.2-million price tag is the district’s estimate for the project that includes a new competition gym, six-lane indoor track, artificial turf field, cardio and weight-training spaces, and eight academic classrooms.
“Our recommendation to proceed with this project to address these needs in a purposeful and organized manner,” Associate Superintendent Chris Johnson said on behalf of the administration. “ … We have a facility that is a celebrated facility that did great work for our students and for our faculty over many years but it’s time to invest so that the next generation of students can have the same benefits that those in the past have.”
The proposed improvements would upgrade the district’s “antiquated facilities” such as “out-of-date gyms and classrooms,” to bring New Trier’s spaces up to par with its peer schools, officials say.
“We have the highest volume of participants in our athletics programs across the Central Suburban League and we are lacking in space,” Athletic Director Augie Fontanetta said.
“The facility would provide us with opportunities to really enhance our student experience for athletics and kinetic wellness across the board.”
Johnson detailed more specifics related to the project during the meeting, including assuring the board that the construction of a barrel roof is within budget. He added a barrel roof is a feature aimed at preserving the rich history of Gates and providing the new facility with a distinct and nostalgic look.
The financing plan for the project was also elaborated upon by Johnson, who identified and explained three sources of funding: alternative revenue bonds, the district’s debt service extension base and its fund balance.
Depending on the final costs of the project, the district is planning on using anywhere from $8-$12 million from its reserves. Johnson said there’s historical precedent for using these funds for capital projects, as the district used $15 million for the west side project and used $6 million a year in 2019 and 2020 for capital projects.
If board members opt to move forward with the project next week, several actions are needed.
The board must approve a notice of intent to issue the alternative revenue bonds and $19.5 million in working cash bonds. Fifty million dollars of alternative revenue bonds will then be sold in April of 2021 to finance the first phase of construction for the project, Johnson said.
The board will also need to approve contracts with Wight and Co. for architectural services and with Pepper Construction for construction management services.
If OK’d, district officials will immediately begin the design development phase with the hopes of finishing that portion of the project by this summer.
Construction is slated to begin in December of this year with a target completion date in August of 2023.
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.