New training facility eyed for NU athletes


This is a drawing provided by North Union Local School District of what the new athletic facility could look like. The new structure is estimated to cost $2.9 million.
(Graphic provided)

The Wildcats of North Union will be getting a big shot in the arm in the future with the addition of a new athletic training facility to help fill the needs of student-athletes.
The district’s school board, during its July meeting, took the first step in the quest of turning the idea into a reality when it approved an architectural firm, MKC Associates Inc., to design construction documents and administration for the building, according to a press release provided by the district.
The building, which is in the early stages of planning, is priced at $2.9 million and will be paid for with current funds, a lease purchase agreement with a local bank and donations collected through the North Union Athletic Committee, according to superintendent Rich Baird.
“This structure will help address the needs of our students,” said Baird. “This is an investment in our students that will keep them in positive activities with an emphasis on health and sports.”
To help address the needs of the students, athletic director Nick Hajjar asked the question, “what do we need?”
“In prepping for this project, we had to identify what problems we currently have with our athletics,” he said. “When I say problems, I am talking mainly about space, time and resources.”
The high school has only have one gymnasium and a small weight room that is shared with the field house where the wrestling team practices. The lack of facilities causes scheduling conflictions with many of the sports.
“That forces an early and late practice every single day in the high school and middle school gyms,” said Hajjar. “Any type of youth programs that want to use those facilities are now pushed back to the 7 p.m. time slot at the earliest. That also doesn’t take into account the crossover of seasons.
“For instance if we are still in basketball season, someone practices from 3-5 p.m., some practice from 5-7 p.m. and now softball/baseball are trying to get ready for their season,” he said. “They need space to try and do something. We can’t put the baseball cage up, because we only have space in the gym for one cage, but it can’t go up until the basketball season is completely over.”
The new addition to the Wildcat athletic program is scheduled to include a 12,000 to 15,000-square foot practice area for all sports, a 2,500-square foot weight room, two classrooms and two full-size locker rooms with an athletic trainer facility, according to the release.
In addition to the structure, the building will also include rubberized floors where all teams can practice year-round and two batting cages that will remain in place.
“They can hit, field ground balls, pitch on the rubber floor and it doesn’t affect it,” said Hajjar. “Golf can utilize the new space to hit into nets all year long. Track can throw rubber discus and shots and work on handoffs. It just takes care of a lot of people at once.”
Although the building will meet the needs of many NU athletes, Hajjar is currently forming a committee to make sure it is maximized to meet the needs of every sport.
“It is like building a new house,” he said. “You have to think about the flow of traffic and if I’m an athlete in this sport and I have to go out and do this (exercise), where do I have to go?
“We need to really think about that so that we do it right.
“Once it is up, there is no re-doing it.”
The building is planned to be located next to the current NUAC building and will extend in an ‘L’ shape out behind the centerfield fence of the softball diamond.
“The plan will be to remove the modular buildings so we have all of this space,” said Hajjar. “The main part will have the entrance with classrooms and locker rooms.
“As we walk through, there will be the weight room with the gyms on the backside.”
Although the focus of the building will be with athletics in mind, Baird said there is potential for other activities to be hosted in the new building.
“The need is for the space, but not only for athletics,” he said. “It is also for our robotics program and we could host events in the new structure.”
Baird added that the building will match the existing aesthetics of the surrounding school buildings and will be something the school “can take pride in.”
District officials did not give a timeline for the start of the project.

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