Hoopy Days: Durham Academy unveils renovated, expanded gymnasium

Jan. 22, 2013 @ 10:15 PM

Alex Thompson, a 17-year-old senior at Durham Academy, used to play basketball in the run-down gymnasium.
“It was built a long time ago,” he said. “So, it had tradition. But it wasn’t in great shape.”
On Tuesday, Thompson and the rest of the Durham Academy community got a first look inside the renovated and expanded Kirby Gymnasium.
The new facility includes air conditioning, new floor, frosted glass windows, improved lighting, 300 additional seats, a trophy hallway, concession stand and public restrooms. The expansion features a fitness center, locker rooms, offices and a much-improved training room. The old one had been inside a water heater closet. Part of the old gym floor graces the wall of the new gym’s main lobby.
“I thought it was awesome,” Thompson said of the new gym. “It’s got that wow factor. When other schools come to play us, they’ll really have something to see.”
Steve Engebretsen, the school’s athletic director, said it was exciting to see people rushing to get inside after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It’s a place to show off,” he said. “It’s place to be proud of.”
The new gym is built on the foundation of the old, which was first erected in 1974 when the Upper School opened with 150 students. Enrollment now stands at more than 400. The revamp was the capstone of Durham Academy’s Evergreen Campaign, an effort that has raised about $7.2 million of a $9 million goal from 700 donors so far. The campaign also funded development of the Upper School Learning Commons, which opened last February.
Ed Costello, the school’s headmaster, enjoyed the jubilation he saw from students when they saw the facility for the first time.
“Seeing the looks on their faces when they came in for basketball practice (on Monday) was worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears,” Costello said.
The gym got immediate use on Tuesday, with junior varsity girls and varsity boys playing basketball against North Raleigh Christian Academy.
David Beischer, a 1985 graduate who used to play basketball in the old gym and now serves as chair of the board of trustees, was among those cutting the ceremonial green ribbon.
“It’s not even comparable to the old gym,” Beischer said. “Back then, we couldn’t have imagined such a nice facility.”
The gym’s renovation took about two years. Jamie Spatola, a 2000 graduate of Durham Academy and president of the alumni board, was impressed by the results.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m very proud of the way they incorporated the existing structure and made it all look brand new.”
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For more information on Durham Academy’s Evergreen Campaign, visit http://www.dafuture.org.