District 518 breaks ground on new ALC/Gymnastics facility
WORTHINGTON — The sun shone down on gold spades Tuesday as Independent School District 518 broke ground on its new $13.1 million facility that will serve as the district’s Area Learning Center and gymnastics center.
Representatives from the district’s ALC, gymnastics program, board of education and Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Club helped turn dirt Tuesday afternoon in celebration of the new approximately 45,000 square-feet facility on Crailsheim Drive.
“Like all students in the district, (ALC students) deserve to have proper facilities and proper space,” ALC Principal Barry Fischer said of the new space that will allow the ALC to move out of West Learning Center, which dates back to the 1960s and is designed for elementary-aged students. “We finally have a home for ourselves.”
The growing gymnastics program will also have a new home in the facility, allowing it to vacate its location of 22 years, the Armory Business Center.
“We want to thank the school board, community and parents that have supported the gymnastics program all these years and for giving us the opportunity to have this once-in-a-lifetime dream of having a brand new gymnastics facility,” Worthington Gymnastics Coach Joni Reitmeier said. “I think that the girls have earned it, and I think we’re going to see this program prosper even more and grow, and we’re just super excited to move into a state-of-the-art facility that is going to be safe.”
District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said the weather has delayed construction slightly, but is hopeful the gymnastics program can take occupancy by the beginning of next year and the ALC by March 2019.
The project is being designed by Wold Architects and Engineers and constructed by Sunkota Construction Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D.
The district has yet to decide on a permanent name for the new building, which has been commonly referred as the ALC/Gymnastics facility since the board of education unanimously approved the project in April 2017 with the goal of eliminating West Learning Center.
The board heard name suggestions from area individuals during its regular Tuesday evening meeting. Landgaard said the board would likely make a naming decision by fall.ALC
At approximately 34,000 square feet, the ALC portion will include 11 general purpose classrooms, art lab, science lab, one special education room, a fitness room, a full-sized competitive gymnasium and a conference room.
A shared space being dubbed as the learning commons will surround the classrooms and provide space for small group work and a shared cafeteria space, said Wold Architects and Engineers Associate Sal Bagley, who has worked on the project since its inception.
The board of education made the decision in July to change the specs from a half-sized gym to a full-size, as well as to add more locker room space. The decision, said board of education chairperson Lori Dudley, was made in part to create a more accessible gym to community members.
“We see the public using it,” she said.
Worthington ALC junior Alex Magana said the stereotypical mentality that the ALC is designed for the bad students is not valid, although he admitted he did not fully understand that until he began taking classes in the alternative learning environment.
“The ALC is an opportunity gold mine for kids struggling academically and with the English language,” Magana said.Gymnastics
With other discussions surrounding the Nobles County-owned library and armory and the potential to house the historical society in the armory, Landgaard said the school district needed to do something with its gymnastics program.
“That gym space, although it’s worked, it hasn’t met the needs, particularly for all the kids we have in the program,” he said.
“‘All the kids’ include hundreds of young gymnasts year-round ranging from 18 months to 18 years old, said Reitmeier, who also coordinates District 518 Community Education gymnastics programs.
Last season’s competitive high school team had 26 girls, which Reitmeier called a larger-than-average squad. Based on 40 young gymnasts in four other competitive kids’ teams, Reitmeier believes the high school team will continue to have large numbers.
On average, an additional 200 and 225 kids per District 518 community education session compete. Sessions take place in the fall, spring, summer and winter.
At approximately 10,500 square feet, the gymnastics-designated space will be almost double what the program had while housed in the armory. The additional space will afford safety enhancement, including a foam pit, which will allow gymnasts to try out new tricks from every event.
“Our girls are getting to the point where they’re doing tricks that they need pits to practice,” she said. “We first don’t have the room for these pits (in the armory), and we’re not going to spend thousands of dollars renovating an old facility we don’t even own.”
The new space will also boast approximately 220 balcony-level seats, which Reitmeier said will reduce congestion on the competitive floor. The adjacent gymnasium will serve as overflow seating.
The new facility will also have appropriate bathrooms and locker rooms for the gymnasts, something that the armory did not have, she said.
The space will also be a more controlled environment, as Reitmeier said there was no air conditioning and it was unknown if the heat would work on any given day. That environment was not only less than ideal for spectators, but was hard on equipment, she added.
“Our balance beams tend to sweat, which makes them crack,” she said. “Gymnastics equipment is not cheap, so we want to make sure we’re keeping that as long as possible.”
Reitmeir said while the gymnastics program outgrew the armory, she appreciates the space that allowed the program to host year-round sessions and to grow to what it is today.
“Even though it was built in the 1800s, the armory served its purpose,” she said.
Worthington High School junior and gymnast Taylor Eggers, who has competed in Worthington gymnastics since second grade, agreed it was time to move on from the old space.
“The armory has been my home away from home, but I’m excited to say the least for the future of Worthington gymnastics,” she said.