Elder High School’s board of trustees recently approved the construction of the state-of-the-art fitness center, which will be the first new building established at Elder’s main campus since the basketball gymnasium, the Memorial Fieldhouse, was completed in 1980.
School officials expect construction will occur over eight to nine months depending on the weather. The fitness center is expected to be completed by summer 2019.
The conversation about building the new fitness center began in 2014 when Minnesota Vikings tight end and 2008 Elder graduate Kyle Rudolph – upon signing a contract extension with the Vikings – pledged during his press conference to help his high school improve its weight room facilities.
Rudolph later met with school administrators to discuss how to best meet the current and future needs of student-athletes.
Quickly realizing that Elder had outgrown its current weight room in the Donohoe Center, a space utilized since 2001 with a capacity of just 59 occupants, administrators decided to build the new fitness center and then repurpose the current space.
“Our weight room staff and coaches have done a great job managing the current space and the increased number of student-athletes training year-round,” Elder Athletic Director Kevin Espelage said. “Thanks to Kyle’s generosity and commitment to Elder High School, we have this amazing opportunity to provide a state-of-the-art fitness center for student-athletes. It will strengthen the already-rich experience of being an Elder athlete and competing in our renowned venues – the Pit and the Panther Athletic Complex.”
The new Panther Fitness Center will feature a weight room on the first floor, which doubles the current space, as well as a more-than-6,000-square-foot multi-purpose room on the second floor. The project is expected to be completed in two phases as funds are secured.
According to the school, $2 million is needed for Phase II to complete the center and parking for the project.
“This new facility will complement the $9.5 million in campus and classroom renovations that we have completed over the past three years, including new science labs, installation of LED lighting and air conditioning throughout the school, updated windows and more,” Elder principal Kurt Ruffing said. “By keeping the best interests of our students and faculty at the forefront, these improvements will greatly enhance the academic environment – body, mind and spirit – that we can offer to current and future men of Elder.”
Adam Rankin, Elder’s head strength and conditioning coordinator, looks forward to the enhanced training programs and camaraderie the new facility will cultivate.
“The added space and layout of new equipment will improve the safety and effectiveness of the weight room and our training programs,” Rankin said. “We also will be able to improve the teamwork and cohesiveness of our programs by allowing all levels to train at the same time, freshmen through varsity.”
Other benefits the new facility will offer include flexibility when scheduling in-season and out-of-season team activities, ample training space during inclement weather and the ability to host team practices, thereby freeing up current space for other activities. There also will be additional space for physical education classes and an area for potential community outreach programs.
Conceptual design work began in 2017 led by Jeffery Sackenheim, a project manager with SHP Leading Design. Input from Elder’s coaches and administration was collected through a series of design exercises. Fundraising continues for Phase II of the project.
Rudolph, a U.S. Army All-American in football as well as an Elder basketball standout, has personally committed his financial support, and the school already has secured additional funding to complete Phase I.
That includes construction of a two-story facility on the east side of the current school building, completion of the first floor, featuring weight-training space (5,870 square feet), changing room / locker room/restroom (860 square feet), a coaches office (520 square feet) and a lobby, and outfitting the second floor in preparation for Phase II.
Once funded, Phase II will include:
Multi-purpose room (6,000 square feet);
Potential classroom / meeting space;
Parking lot (on northwest side of school building);
Re-purposing of the Donohoe Center, which currently houses a weight room, spirit shop and coaches’ office.