Thursday, August 10, 2000

Mason to break ground for gym and high school

Complex should open in 2002

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — After thinking about it for more than a year, community leaders today were expected to break ground for the $71.9 million Mason high school and recreation center complex.

        “This is an exciting and positive example of what governments working together can provide for a community,” said Marianne Culbertson, school board president for Mason City Schools.

        The project is a partnership between the city of Mason and the school district. The plan includes a 355,000-square-foot high school, slated to open in September 2002, and a 140,800-square-foot recreation center with additional space for planned competition and leisure pools, to open in 2003.

        The high school and the recreation center will be built on a city owned, 73-acre tract along Mason-Montgomery Road, between Main Street and Mason High School.

        Voters approved the bond issue for the project in March. Since then, the program has been on a fast track toward completion, Ms. Culbertson said.

        Earlier this month, soil tests were completed on the Mason-Montgomery site.

        Workers will continue through the fall as the site is graded, storm sewers and utilities are installed and asphalt is laid for driveways and parking lots.

        Meanwhile, the architectural firm Voorhis, Slone, Welsh and Crossland will be finishing the construction plans for the building, said Shelly Benesh, Mason City Schools' public information officer.

        The school will be three stories high and made up of three wings, Ms. Benesh said.

        The recreation center, to be open to people who live within the Mason City Schools district, will have a cost but fees have not been determined, Ms. Culbertson said.

        A -mile walking-running track on the upper level of the complex will overlook the fitness area, pool and gymnasium. Outdoors, a walkway will connect to jogging paths at the 228-acre Corwin M. Nixon Park site.

        The recreation center will have a 3,000-square-foot area for senior citizens, a 1,000-square-foot billiards room, indoor play area for children, an arts and crafts room, and a lounge.

        Recreation center offices, meeting rooms for the community and a field house with four basketball courts also are planned, with an additional two basketball courts in the school gym.

        In the center of the building is a 9,500-square-foot auditorium that will seat 800 on the lower level and 400 in the balcony, close to the stage. A cafeteria will serve as a lobby to the auditorium and to the eight-lane, 25-meter competition pool that has seating for 800 spectators.

        The new high school will be located north of the current high school. When the new building opens, the old high school likely will be transformed into a middle school, Ms. Culbertson said. However, high school students will still use the sporting fields and arenas attached to the old high school.

        “By doing that, we saved about $12 million,” Ms. Culbertson said.

        The shifting of students will also help accommodate the massive growth the district has been experiencing, she said. Mason schools have averaged about 600 new students a year for the past three years.

        Transferring the middle school students to the old high school will also free up the middle school for the influx of elementary students, Ms. Culbertson said.

        Along with providing for the growth in the schools, the complex will provide a much-needed community center for district residents, she said.

        Today's official groundbreaking sets the plan in motion.

        “This has been on paper and in committees for a year,” Ms. Culbertson said. “It's exciting to be taking a physical step with the groundbreaking.”


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