NEW PALESTINE — Just a few months ago, the fieldhouse at New Palestine High School (NPHS) was filled with makeshift classrooms and hundreds of students. Now the cavernous 21,550-square-foot facility is just a few weeks away from completion.
“What they’re doing right now is putting two coats of sealant on the courts, and tomorrow they’re painting the lines,” NPHS principal Jim Voelz said.
Work crews were adding some of the final touches to the three full-court basketball courts Monday afternoon before the courts are lined for all kinds of athletic activities. In addition to the courts, there will also be a three-lane, rubber walking and running track around the three courts, making it a complete indoor facility fit for all kinds of student activities.
“What we were lacking was facilities for all of our different athletic programs, and if you add in our music department with percussion, winter guard and band, we really needed this space,” Voelz said. “As an example right now, our cheerleaders practice in the vestibule area.”
Southern Hancock School District Communications Director Craig Smith said there are already plans to host other educational and extracurricular events in the fieldhouse this spring.
“We’re going to have a huge college and career fair here that we will host in this facility this spring, April 4,” Smith said. “Plus, we’re looking to maybe hosting a robotics event here if they need this much room.”
While the fieldhouse is massive, it will not be where the Dragons play their main indoor winter sporting events. They’ll continue to use the main gym or the auxiliary gym for basketball, volleyball and other games due to the lack of seating in the fieldhouse. The fieldhouse will be used as a practice and training area for the school’s athletic and other departments.
“We’ve got two curtains that we can put down so you can utilize three different spaces at once,” Voelz said.
They’ll add some Dragon logos and make sure there is padding all the way around some of the sharp corners in the facility so athletes can go all-out.
“Our coaches and our travel coaches in the community are just kind of waiting to get the green light to get in here,” Voelz said.
The three-lane track, Voelz noted, will be great for physical education classes and also for their track student athletes to get in winter workouts and for people who want to walk or run to get into shape.
“It can be used by any of our coaches who want to come in here and utilize it,” Voelz said. “This won’t be a place where there will be a lot of spectating because there will only be a few places to sit.”
The fieldhouse is also connected to the NPHS wrestling room and the locker room, creating easy access for that sport.
“We don’t think this facility will be used 24/7, but we know it’s going to be used a lot by our high school students and the community for night and weekend activities when school is not in session,” Voelz said.
The construction of the fieldhouse was part of “phase one” of the massive $49 million renovation project that kicked off in the late fall of 2019. Once built, the fieldhouse was used as a place to house some 19 makeshift classrooms and teachers while other parts of the building were going through major construction.
When the temporary classrooms were removed and students moved back into the newly renovated area of the school earlier this school year, crews immediately started working on getting the fieldhouse finished and now they’re coming down the home stretch.
“We really are super excited to get this done,” Voelz said.
Voelz noted if everything continues moving forward over the next few weeks, the fieldhouse will be ready for students to enjoy by mid-December. However, full access may not officially start until January 2024.
“Since we’ll only have about one more week before winter break, we’ll probably wait and let the kids start utilizing the facility after we get back in the new year,” Voelz said.
The school’s athletic director and district officials will determine the exact hours of operation and who, other than students, will be able to use the facilities in the coming weeks.