Over the years, Egg Harbor Township High School has undertaken several projects to accommodate its ever-growing student body, which currently sits at more than 2,500.
This summer, construction crews have been busily working on renovating the school's aging fieldhouse, which Egg Harbor Township Schools Superintendent Scott McCartney said is the last piece of the expansion puzzle.
"It's sort of the culmination of all the work we've done to address the expansion," McCartney said. "It's the last piece of what we need to do to make our facilities match the needs of the community."
The fieldhouse has been gutted in preparation for a layout reconfiguration that will allow it to better accommodate the large number of students who participate in EHTHS athletics. The existing concession stand space will be repurposed to expand the boys' locker room, and the building will be extended about 20 feet on one side to make room for an expanded concession stand.
Additional improvements to the fieldhouse include new lockers for both boys and girls, fixes to its leaking roof, upgraded ventilation and air conditioning systems, expanded bathroom facilities and better drainage along the field side of the building.
The project is expected to be completed in early November, in time for the Eagles' Thanksgiving Day football game against Mainland Regional High School.
The ongoing construction will force fall athletes to truck their equipment back and forth from the school for practices and games, and while it is not an ideal situation, varsity football coach Tony DeRosa said his athletes are willing to make the sacrifice.
"We're going to make do, because we know it'll be better for the team," DeRosa said. "We'll be excited for Thanksgiving."
The project was initially planned to coincide with the construction of the school's turf field and stadium in 2009, but was pushed back after a significant chunk of the funding for that project was lost, forcing the re-allocation of funds that had been set aside for fieldhouse renovations.
The renovations, which will cost about $800,000, were paid for through funds from the district's capital reserve, which is created from savings when the district's annual budget rolls over. The Community Partnership for Egg Harbor Township Schools has donated an additional $25,000, which will be used to purchase kitchen equipment for the new concession stand.
When it discussed plans for the expansion, the school board invited coaches and a few prominent booster parents as representatives of the groups most impacted by the new building to share their input.
In his talks with the board, DeRosa stressed the importance of giving the teams a large amount of open space in which to work, which he said is invaluable in building a team's culture.
"Our locker room isn't just somewhere a kid hangs up his helmet and his cleats," DeRosa said. "Our locker room is a classroom. We'll do meetings in there. We'll possibly do film work in there. We're going to build bonds and relationships."
Egg Harbor Township High School is as big as any in the region, and with the completion of this project, it will have state-of-the-art facilities to match its scope.
The school often hosts large-scale athletic events, drawing rave reviews from visiting schools, McCartney said, and the new fieldhouse will only reinforce the township's reputation as a great place to be an athlete.
"I think it's going to be great for our kids, and also nice for our visitors," McCartney said. "We run a lot of programs here. We get to host state and regional things, and it's nice to show them ... what we think is one of the better facilities across the state."
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