New Paly athletic center to echo historic campus | September 13, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 13, 2013

New Paly athletic center to echo historic campus

Groundbreaking for state-of-the-art facility likely next spring with 14-month construction

by Chris Kenrick

A planned state-of-the-art athletic center for Palo Alto High School will likely break ground next May or June and be ready for use in the fall of 2015, Palo Alto school officials said Tuesday at a meeting of the Board of Education.

The complex is expected to cost more than $20 million and to be funded largely by the Peery family of Palo Alto, which has sent three generations to Paly. The district plans to contribute $5.4 million to the project, officials said in February.

The new complex — two gyms connected by an enclosed loggia, or hallway — will sit in the footprint of the school's two existing gyms and architecturally echo Paly's historic Tower Building. It will wrap around three sides of the existing swimming pool, but the pool itself will not be disturbed.

School board members Tuesday were enthusiastic as architect Jeremiah Tolbert walked them through schematic designs for the complex.

The new main gym will have a "Hall of Fame" corridor, a covered entry and large lobby with a ticket booth, concession stand and athletic store, a new large training room and space for visiting coaches, with a sunken main gym floor.

Team locker rooms will be directly off the main gym floor.

The hallway connecting the two gyms will be on the side of the swimming pool closest to Paly's quad.

The smaller gym — located toward El Camino Real — will feature a large arched window similar to that in the Tower Building. In addition to the gym space, the building will also contain pool locker rooms, a new wrestling/multi-purpose room, and a dance and yoga studio.

On a lower level will be physical education locker rooms, a P.E. classroom, a larger weight room and storage.

Construction is expected to take just 14 months under a "lease-leaseback" delivery method with Palo Alto contractor Vance Brown, who recently built a similar facility at Menlo School.

During the 2014-15 school year, athletic and P.E. programs will be run out of portable classrooms on the quad as well as a temporary locker and restroom facility around Paly's wood shop. Officials said they may also erect a covered area near the new concessions building to create space for P.E. on rainy days and also may use part of the existing student center for dance classes.

In addition, officials said they've contacted Stanford about renting temporary facilities but will likely keep the Paly pool open because Stanford may not have pool space available.

Tolbert, the architect, said he's kept in close touch with architect Erwin Lee, who is designing many other upgrades to the Paly campus. Among those are a planned addition to the science building, which will look out onto the athletic center.

"Erwin and I talk about materials — they're going to be compatible — and we've talked in the midst of design," Tolbert told the board.

"We've talked about having the two complement each other, but they're their own separate structures."

The science addition, to be constructed at the same time as the athletic center, will include four new science labs, a mini-prep area, a staff room and renovations to the existing science resource center.

The science addition is part of a major, districtwide construction program covered by the $378 million "Strong Schools" bond passed by voters in 2008. At Paly alone, the bond is funding a new, two-story classroom building, a new media-arts building and major upgrades to the track and football stadium and the Tower Building.

Additionally, construction will begin soon on a 600-seat performing arts center on the Embarcadero Road side of the Paly campus, officials said.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by Jim H, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:30 am

Will definitely be a nice addition to campus. But, a few questions/comments:

1) Didnt't Paly just build a new science building not too far back, maybe 6 years ago? It already needs to expand? When will a third high school open to alleviate the need to cram 2200 kids into a campus built for 1700?

2) When will the school stop being a construction zone and get back to being a school?

3) Thank you Peery Foundation for the donation.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

Wonder how long it will take for the District to get sued by the contractors for their failure to perform up to their promises?

Posted by Katherine, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

Thank you Peery family!! This project will be a wonderful addition to Paly.

Posted by Suit happens, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

PAUSD is already involved in a lawsuit with a Japanese contractor. That contractor is well-known for suing clients all over the world.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

To me, that only looks like one gym... I don't see how the loggia connects what could possibly be two gymnasiums unless the main gym is really really sunken...

The architectural design will definitely make it in line with the more historic buildings on campus, but why not go for a more contemporary take on the style like we see at Stanford? Seems like a great opportunity somewhat wasted...

Posted by ES, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

@Confused. I see two gyms in the renderings. One is on either side of the pool.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

@ES That looks like a single story structure to me, but perhaps it's a really sunken gym... or an outdoor gym on the rooftop?

Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

The gym on the right side in the two photos is sunken. The one on the left is at grade.

Posted by PA parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Beautiful, at least as drawn.

@ Jim H.

If my recollection serves me well, the science building opened nine years ago (school year 2004-2005). I had a child who was then a senior and had a class in the brand new building that year.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

My kids were in elementary school when B 4 E started, continued through middle school. Now in Paly, our whole school experience has been portables, construction and making do. What school memories so many of our kids are going to have!

Posted by PA parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

@ Jim H

I agree with you. As a matter of fact, our PA schools have been one large construction site for 15 or more years now. My kids have almost always known construction throughout.

I've always wondered about the health impact on our children of so much noise and dust but no one seems to have echoed my misgivings.

Posted by Not the worst, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

The construction mess is not the worst of it. Fully half of the Paly buildings are plagued by noise and shaking from Cal Train. Just imagine how bad it will be when HSR goes through!

According to my son, it is currently VERY disruptive.

Posted by Palo Altan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm

The Richard Peery family knows how to get things done. These buildings will be well built, well designed, come in on budget and be finished on schedule.
Thank you Peery family for your generosity.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Thank you, Peery family!

Posted by Shanna, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Thank you to the Peery Family!

Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Finally, Nice Classic Architecture that fits..
Good Job, Extremely good Job..

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

The design here is a good counterexample to the Hamilton Ave project. Fits the existing style while being true to its function.

Posted by PA parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:37 pm

@ not the worst

You are obviously not very familiar with (fast) trains. Having lots of experience with trains (including HSR style trains), I can tell you that, first of all, electric trains are very quiet overall, and for sure, much, much quieter than the current diesel Caltrain.

Then, regarding the shaking, if the trains are to go really fast on this segment of their route, the rails will be replaced with much more advanced ones, and the shaking won't be so bad, if there is any. If the trains don't go that fast on this segment, then there won't be much shaking in the first place. There is also a relatively wide space between the school buildings and the tracks.

Lastly, only one row of classrooms on the very far eastern section of campus are impacted. In all honesty, I've spent lots of time on Paly campus and I have barely noticed the trains there if ever.

HSR will make the current train noise much better, not worse. There is a lot of disinformation out there on HSR. The noise issue is part of the disinformation.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Many worked hard on our new pool at Paly, and donated monies. The rendering seems to threaten the existing aquatic experience for student athletes - the scoreboard, lighting, bleachers, offices are gone. The arches by the pool would be fenced given the pool's security. Pool access seems not developed. I hope a few involved in aquatics can participate.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2013 at 1:14 am

@PA parent - You might think you are familiar with HSR, but have you read the environmental impact report? It has a chart that shows HSR is louder than commuter rail. It might be quieter at the same speed, but at full speed it is substantially louder, even than freight trains.

You can see the chart here:
Web Link

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:35 am

Bob: scoreboard will move to opposite end of pool - above existing pump house. Lights stay. Pump house stays. Deck space same size. The upgrade will be bathrooms accessible on the pool deck and coaches will get real offices.

Posted by ES, a resident of Southgate
on Sep 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I would also like to add a huge "thank you" to the Peery family for this generous donation. And I agree with "Palo Altan" who says that the Peerys know how to get the project well built, well designed, come in on budget and be finished on schedule. I understand that as part of the donation, it was specified that they would choose contractor, architect, etc.

Posted by Nice, but..., a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

This is great, and THANX, Peery Foundation, but what Paly really, really needs, according to generations of students, current and former, is some sound-dampening insulation and movement-control foundations in the buildings on the east side of the campus. The buildings in the vicinity of the CalTrain tracks shake, rattle and hum whenever a train goes by, to say nothing about the shock of the deafening noise. tIt is apparently hugely disruptive, as thousands of former students (and current ones) can testify. Teachers don't care for it much, either

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

The Peerys are experienced so it should go smoothly, unlike the City of Palo Alto projects. Thank you, Peerys!

Posted by Pete, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:21 am

I spent 4 years at Paly and had classes in the classrooms closest to the tracks. I don't recall Caltrain ever being an issue. Are you people anti-public transportation and/or anti-HSR?

Posted by PalyAlumni, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 17, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Quit your whining and be happy that the Peery Family has made this generous donation. Typical Palo Altans, calling in the Police because your neighbor is cooking cabbage and you don't like how it smells. Get over yourselves about train noise and portables! New buildings have to be done sometime! And they can't just do it in one summer when kids are out of school.

Posted by Paly Dad, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2014 at 12:12 am

Lived next to the train tracks for over 15 years and sent two children through Paly - The noise is NOT an issue unless you just what to complain about something. The new gym upgrades are decades behind the rest of silicon valley. Some complained and objected to the new fields especially the old upper field - now look at how well received they are. progress takes patience and will not negative shortsightedness.

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