ENID, Okla. — Construction of the Enid High School gymnasium and performing arts center is 82% complete, Michael Shuck, Enid Public Schools’ head of construction, said.

He took school administrators for a tour of the building last week, showcasing progress made and addressing what’s left to do.

The exterior is pristine, nearly finished, but inside dozens of workers are hammering, drilling, installing this, laying that. The dust is months from settling.

The final 18% puts the opening date sometime in February 2020, Shuck said, two years after workers broke ground on the 118,000-square-foot facility, designed to comfortably accommodate a wide variety of extracurricular activities.

Basketball, volleyball, wrestling, theater, choir, band, orchestra and more will practice, compete and perform under one roof. For years, district programs and activities have been scattered, each to their own corners of campus, or other sites elsewhere in town.

“The culture is going to change,” EHS Principal Dudley Darrow said. “I’ve been here 15 years, we’ve played basketball in three different places. We used to play at the Mark Price Center, we used to play at NOC, and now we play at the (Stride Bank Center),” he said. “It will be nice to have one place that’s home ... and not just a few times a year, but every day.”

Having one central location will spare EPS hassle and headache, and, administrators hope, will create a greater sense of community among students.

“On any given night, when we have a big event in here, we may have 700, 800, 900 kids doing something, so it’s so much bigger than just the 10 people playing on the court,” EPS athletic director Billy Tipps said.

A media production room, next door to the blackbox theater, isn’t much more than four walls and a ceiling at the moment, but will be equipped with TV cameras, microphones, monitors and recording booths in the near future. Everything aspiring students might need to put together TV-quality content for EPS’ own broadcast.

“This is a great way to incorporate another set of kids into our activities and our athletics,” Tipps said. “We can basically have an ESPN-style show during a game at halftime, or interview coaches as they walk off. It’s unlimited potential.”

The media production room is on the north side of the facility, together with the theater, drama classroom and stage and set building room.

It’s where “the creative side, the art side and the extracurricular side are bunched together,” Doug Stafford, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said.

Upstairs is a five-classroom addition, accessible from the high school, which will serve as an extension of the University Center program.

“A lot of people think of this as being only a performing arts center and competition gym, but there’s also instructional space,” he said.

The arts and media production section is the closest to completion, followed by the music department wing.

Orchestra, band and choir will each have its own room to practice, and rooms for storage.

The 40,000-square-foot gym will be the last section ready, Shuck said. A combination of permanent and retractable bleachers will seat 2,500, roughly 700 more than the total EHS student population.

Nearby, pom, cheer and wrestling will have dedicated rooms for their use.

With the help of a drop-down divider, the gym is flexible and multi-use. Cut the basketball court in half and it becomes two volleyball courts.

Drag a few mats out of the storage room, just feet away from the court, and it’s an ideal setup for a wrestling tournament.

“We’ve never been able to have the home court advantage, we’ve always had to either play at NOC or we had to go to the (Stride Bank Center),” Stafford said. “Now we’ll have our own space with our own branding.”

The spaces constructed for each program were designed while keeping in mind the students and staff involved, he said.

“Every person who is going to be in this building had input on their space,” Stafford said.

This facility is meant, in many ways, to be a communal place for the district, whether it’s a game night or a regular school day.

“That was a big part of what we did here,” Shuck said. “We wanted to find ways to build community.”

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Willetts is education and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.
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