By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Craig Schoof never looked forward to the first week of November, especially when it came to scheduling events.
"Scheduling was a nightmare," said Schoof, Menlo's athletic director and baseball coach.
Because Menlo School and Menlo College shared one gymnasium, making sure all the volleyball and basketball teams had their court time bordered on the ridiculous.
The Haynes-Prim Pavilion was open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday. During the first two weeks of November, with sports seasons overlapping, the sunken gym was busy.
Vying for space were at least two college wrestling teams, two college basketball teams, five Menlo School basketball teams, three volleyball squads and six Menlo Middle School teams.
"The first two weeks of November were just incredible," Schoof said. "Fortunately, Keith Spataro (Menlo College AD) and the college coaches understood."
That scheduling problem, however, is gone -- thanks to the new Menlo School Athletic Center, which opened its doors to the public for the first time on Tuesday. The multi-million dollar on-campus facility is the new home of the Knights.
The $18 million bi-level complex, which houses the basketball and volleyball teams, also provides top-level fitness and training rooms.
"The sports that benefit most are basketball and volleyball, but all sports will greatly benefit from the performance and fitness rooms," said Schoof. "Spring sports teams will also now have a place to practice when it rains."
The 54,000 square-foot center features two courts with complete support facilities, allowing the middle school and high school to run events at the same time. The center's Main Court can be set up for one NCAA regulation-size basketball court with bleacher seating for 999 (limited by a city ordinance) or three full-size basketball courts or four regulation-size volleyball courts. The middle school's West Court setup for a basketball game seats 175. Or, volleyball nets can be lowered from the ceiling to provide two full-sized courts for that sport.
The Menlo School girls' volleyball team, which was practicing on Tuesday on the new West Court, will be the first to grace the courts with its home opener Sept. 9 in a nonleague match against San Mateo.
"The Athletic Center gives us a tremendous home floor advantage for the volleyball and basketball teams as well a centralized place for students to train for competition and build healthy fitness habits," said Kris Weems, development officer and boys' basketball coach.
On the upper level, the Wellness Center encompasses the Performance Room, designed to help students condition for competition with weights and the Fitness Room, which features cardiovascular equipment plus a Training Room for helping students recover from injuries. There are also two rooms dedicated to health education, including nutrition and stress management classes, and a multi-purpose room for yoga, pilates, aerobics and self-defense classes.
Menlo students and staff will be able to gather for all-school assemblies in the center, which is equipped with a projection screen, audio-visual technology and theater lighting. A Hall of Fame walkway showcasing trophies and Knights' memorabilia connects the lobby to the gymnasium.
"It's an advantage for every program," said Schoof.
The state-of-the-art facility was six years in the planning as neighbors were resistant to the addition. Groundbreaking finally began last summer and construction took 14 months.
Doors opened Tuesday, with public tours given by Menlo staff and students proudly wearing dark blue T-shirts emblazoned with "Got Gym?" on the front and "Yes, We Do" on the back.
That pretty much said it all.