Illinois High School Approves $75M Gym Upgrade

The school board of the New Trier High School Winnetka campus, located in Winnetka, Ill., has unanimously approved plans to construct a new gymnasium. The $75 million project involves demolishing the existing gym, which was built in 1928, and replacing it with a new, state-of-the-art facility better suited for the school’s current size and athletics programs.

The new facility is set to include a field house with an indoor track, a dozen new classrooms, a climbing wall, athletics offices, and expanded workout areas. The current gym was built when the school’s enrollment was about 1,100 students. Now, with a student body of more than 3,000 (all of whom are enrolled in physical education classes to some degree or another) and an athletics department that offers 35 sports, school officials call the existing space “really inadequate.”

“We have one of the largest [athletics] programs in one of the smallest spaces, when looking at total participation,” said superintendent Paul Sally. “We’re way behind our peers, and we are looking forward to rightsizing the space to meet the needs of our students and our community.”

School officials have said that the project will be funded without requesting that taxpayers pass a referendum. The school is relying on reserve funds of $10 million and issuing $50.5 million in alternate-revenue bonds with an approximate annual repayment cost of $3.1 million, paid for with funds from operation. The new gym is part of a larger, $100 million campus construction project that was approved in 2014.

District officials have also commented that, against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time for construction has never been better. “It’s an optimal time to issue debt, because less of the money goes to interest and more goes to benefit the school for the benefit of our community and our students, and it’s an optimum time for bidding,” said Sally. “It’s a good time to be in the market for construction, as companies are hungry for that work.”

The design for the new facility should be finalized by summer. Bidding will open in November, and construction should start in December. The current gym is set to be demolished in Feb. 2022. The exterior of the new gym should be up by Nov. 2022, and it’s slated to open its doors to students in Aug. 2023.

Matt Sloan, a New Trier science teacher and boys’ cross country and track coach, called the plan a “game-changer for students, athletes, staff and coaches.” He also considers the estimated 2023 completion date a bit of good timing for younger students—though their freshman year has been somewhat marred by the pandemic, it gives them something to look forward to.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].