Pallotti High breaks ground for new gym and more
By Aiesha Solomon
On Nov. 16, St. Vincent Pallotti High School held a groundbreaking event for its new indoor athletic gym and outdoor practice field with students, alumni, teachers and staff, city of Laurel staff and visitors in attendance.
“I just think we’re excited,” said Pallotti’s principal Jeff Palumbo at the event. “ It’s a very competitive Catholic and private school world, and we just feel like we have a lot of great things here for our students, and we want to have the facilities to make sure we can continue to grow.”
The new indoor athletic center will include basketball and volleyball courts, an athletics trainers suite, a wrestling room and three classrooms. An outdoor turf field for practices (but not games) will also be installed at the site.
“We end up having kids here [until] 9, 9:30 at night waiting for practice and so we really wanted to be able to have our kids have a place to practice right after school so they can get home and take care of academics,” Palumbo said. “We wanted a place where we could do clubs, like intramural leagues for our kids who aren’t on teams.”
“I think having additional space, such as [an] auxiliary gym is definitely going to help us out, and we can do more and possibly have tournaments for basketball or wrestling or any kind of other sports that’s inside,” said Patrick Courtemanche, the boys athletic director. “I think it can help attract more kids to the school.”
The new facility is phase one of a four-phase plan, Palumbo said, that also includes the creation of a new robotics, engineering and computer science lab, construction of a black-box theater and renovation of the school’s cafeteria. The project is expected to cost around $7.5 million, Palumbo said.
The school has raised $5 million for the project, Palumbo said, and a capital campaign to raise the remaining funds is in the works.
“We’ve been raising money over the course of the years. We had raised some money in the past for a football stadium that the plans fell through, so we had that as our seed money,” Palumbo said. “We’ve been able to raise just about what we need for phase one, and then we are going to continue our capital campaign to be able to complete the rest of the project after we complete the athletic facility.”
The plan suffered several setbacks during the pandemic, Palumbo noted.
“It took us 13 months to get our stormwater management plan through. We started it during COVID[-19], and I guess the county didn’t have a lot of people that were able to work with that. It’s pretty complicated and technical, so it took us a long time to get the permits,” Palumbo said.
The stormwater management plan ensures that water run-off is under check to ensure that the watershed is protected from changes due to due to construction. “Underneath our practice field, the turf field, is a huge stone drainage system, so all the water needs to be cleaned up or kind of filtered before it goes into the watershed,” Palumbo said. “A big part of this project was figuring out how we could do that in a clean, safe way.”
Phase two of the project will usher in the robotics, engineering and computer science lab.
“When the trainer moves into the new building, there’s a whole big space that we’re going to break into and create what’s called a makerspace, where they can do all their drilling and soldering and cutting and things that you shouldn’t do around the laser printers and computers,” Palumbo said.
Phase three of the plan calls for construction of a 200-seat black box theater with classrooms, rehearsal space and a dance studio. A black box theater is a simple performance space, typically with black walls and a flat floor rather than a stage.
“Right now our theater is in our cafeteria,” Palumbo said. “Once we build the theater, then we can do some renovations in the cafeteria because we won’t need the stage in the cafeteria any longer.”
Phase four plans for renovating the cafeteria have not been drawn yet, Palumbo said.
The current goal is to have the first and second phases of the plan completed by Fall 2023. After the school gets the needed funds, construction of the black box theater will start, according to Palumbo.
“Our freshmen, our sophomores that will, hopefully, see it to completion, maybe junior class as well, they’re extremely excited,” said Pallotti’s Girls Athletics Director LeeAnn Elman. “We haven’t had those types of facilities ever, so it’s going to be, it’ll be very nice.”