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Academy unveils new center

Back row: Athletic Director Skip Jarocki, Titan, team captains Eddie Jewel of Amherst, Andrew Harvey of Saugus, Brigid Jurgens of Wilbraham, Russell Dinkins of Philadelphia, Sarah Lyon of Monson, Makeeda Gibbs of Brooklyn, Head of School Rodney LaBrecque. Front row: Heather Hamil of Belchertown, Brittany Batterton of Ridgefield, Conn., Hanah Kee of Seoul, Korea, Chelsea Goldrick of Hampden.
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM On Oct. 13, student-athletes, faculty and parents attended the official opening of Wilbraham & Monson Academy's new athletic center.

"This project was in the works for some time," Rita Carey, Director of Communications at the Academy, said. "We compared ourselves to peer schools and discovered we were not up to muster."

The project started two years ago. The Academy received a $5 million bond to "bring the facilities into line," according to Carey.

Before the renovation, the fitness center was more of a weight room with only a limited number of cardiovascular training equipment, like treadmills and cycling units a very male-friendly environment. The new fitness center has a variety of equipment and machines for students of both sexes.

"Entire girls' teams can now work out at the stations in the fitness center," Carey stated. "It's a place to enhance training and physical fitness and it helps all our students stay healthy."

The official name of the fitness center is the Jane McNamara Kelly Center for Strength & Endurance, in honor of a long-time instructor and swim coach at the Academy. Kelly was also the force that brought the Relay for Life fundraising event to the Academy. She lost her own battle with cancer in 2005.

"The faculty raised funds to name the fitness center after their colleague," Carey explained.

The new fitness center isn't all that was added to the school. Locker rooms for boys, girls and coaches were built as well.

"We now have a beautiful multi-purpose room to host dance in the spring and the fall as well as wrestling in the winter," Carey said. The room has a sprung floor, meaning there is space between the main floor and the subfloor so there is a little give when pushed upon. "It's easier on dancers' feet and wrestler's bodies," Carey added.

An outdoor deck overlooking Crystal Pond, a board room and administrative offices were also constructed.

Additionally, improvements were made to the Academy's existing pool and gymnasium. The pool received a new roof and its interior was painted; the gym had new basketball and volleyball lines painted and a sprinkler system was installed.

"The entire project took 14 months," Carey said, "and it finished on time and on budget."

Several hundred people were in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony. At the beginning of the school year, 359 students were enrolled in the Academy and a number of parents were on hand for the unveiling of the new athletic center as Parents' Weekend took place Oct. 13 - 14.

Rodney Labrecque, Head of School for Wilbraham & Monson Academy, said this was the first major project the school has undertaken in almost three decades.

"It was a big relief to have it done on time and in budget," Labrecque said. "The construction was completed in mid-August, just before classes began."

Those classes have been busy using the new athletic facilities. Carey said that fitness center is busiest on the weekends. The administration is also considering opening the center up to the local community at certain times.

"It's still so new, we really haven't planned for community use yet," Labrecque stated, "but it would definitely be a natural."

He added the Academy will be hosting an open house for the public sometime in November.

Wilbraham & Monson Academy is located at 423 Main St. in Wilbraham. For more information, visit