Now that the Lake Central High School construction project is drawing to a close, the community members who helped fund the project can see increased opportunities for students as well as a positive impact on the business community.
‘Bright and Shining Faces’
Bill Ledyard, director of construction and facilities for the school district, says everything has been on schedule and is ready to be turned over to the students, faculty and administration for use.
“When we had freshman registration, we had a large turnout of people who just wanted to come see the place,” Ledyard says. “The kids were just in awe, and it was awesome to see. They had bright and shining faces, and we had upperclassmen even come in to see it.”
The new facilities should help students get from class to class more easily, with wide hallways and stairwells.
“Previously, everything was so cramped,” he says. “Now it’s wide open, and much easier to get to and from wherever you need to go.”
The high school renovation was one part of the $160 million referendum that was passed in November 2011. Phase one of the project created a new pool and a three-story, 100-classroom academic wing. The second phase involved knocking down the north end of the school to create a fine arts wing, which included a 1,000-seat auditorium, a competition gym and administration offices.
The project also included a new football field and track facilities, as well as baseball and softball fields. The baseball and softball fields were ready to use in the spring, Ledyard says. “The kids have been playing on those since March, and they had a fantastic season,” he says. “They were so pleased to have the fields. They were happy and excited to be out there, and it was a joy for us to see.”
A Pool for All
Everything inside the building has been completed, with the exception of the auditorium, which will be ready to use in the late fall.
The new pool has been open since January 2014, and in its first year, the pool has been used not only by students, but by the community, as well. “Since we opened the pool, it gets used all the time,” Ledyard says. “We host meets and things like that all the time, and it helps local businesses as well.”
Jeff Kilinski, aquatics director for Lake Central High School, says there is always something going on at the pool. In addition to being home base for the school’s Barracudas, it is home to the Lake Central Masters Association, which is a program for community members to come in and lap swim in the pool.
“It is a coached team, so when people come in, they are able to choose a workout to do. There are different versions for different ability levels,” Kilinski says. So far, about 45 to 50 people participate in the program, with the hopes of it reaching about 100 people. “We have a coach that comes in, and there are six or seven practice opportunities each week,” he says. “You can take the advice from the coach or you can do your own thing.”
The improved pool has allowed the facility to host more events, which will have an impact on the greater community as well, Kilinski says. In March, the school hosted the Illinois YMCA state swim championships, which drew more than 1,200 athletes, and brought between 3,000 and 4,000 people to Lake Central that weekend; approximately 800 hotel rooms in the area were booked as a result of the event, he says.
“It was a huge meet,” he says. “The facility is absolutely fantastic, and it is only going to get better and better.”
The most recent jewels of the renovation project that are generating excitement in the community this fall are the new football field and gym. Both students and faculty are singing the praises of the sparkling upgraded facilities.
Nicole Vanek, a Lake Central senior and member of the varsity dance team, says, “The new gym gives us a bigger space to perform, and now we have more room to host a greater number of teams for competition. We’re also hosting a new competition this year, because of the size of the new gym.”
“A nice field and gym make people want to come out to the games,” points out senior Olivia Middleton, a varsity cheerleader. “A bigger number of fans at the game equals a larger crowd to cheer to, which is really exciting!”
Senior Brianna Panici, who participates in the school’s color guard, says, “For the dance team, performing on the larger football field helps us be more competition-ready, which makes bigger competitions a little less scary.”
The renovations are also giving a boost to Lake Central High School’s already-acclaimed marching band. “The new football field is a lot easier to march on,” says senior drum line member Will Wyatt. “The acoustics are much better, it looks nicer, and it has a lot more room for fans as well as the band.”
And of course, the upgraded field and gym have a tremendous impact on the school’s athletes. Jakob Brown, a senior on the varsity football team, says, “It’s a nice field to practice on, and doesn’t get muddy because of the new turf. Turf is just better—it makes me feel like I'm going faster, and my cleats don’t stick to the ground.”
The brand-new Lake Central High School athletic director, Chris Enyeart, couldn’t be more pleased to be overseeing the school’s sports programs in such state-of-the-art surroundings. “With the premier facilities in the state of Indiana, we are very excited to be opening our new facilities for our fans, students and community to enjoy the events,” Enyeart says. “In my short time here, the Lake Central community has continuously expressed their pleasure at how amazing the venues for our contests are and that the environment of the game is much improved. The student body has embraced the new facilities and it has rejuvenated their school pride in support of our programs. Our coaches, teams and administration are extremely appreciative of the continued support they are receiving from our students, fans and community!”