New Trier's new East Side Academic and Athletic Project a huge hit

New Trier High School recently unveiled a $79.5 million East Side Academic and Athletic Project at its Winnetka Campus.

The project that broke ground in December 2021 was funded through a combination of bonds and existing reserves.

"It's second to none," New Trier athletic director Augie Fontanetta said. "The best part of opening the new facility has been seeing the reactions of our students and our faculty, and our community coming to see it for the first time. Everybody who walks through has a sense of pride about it. It's such a special place for our students and our community."

New Trier's new competition gymnasium hosted its first capacity crowd on Aug. 15 at the school's fall sports assembly. Courtesy of Katherine Kapustiak

More than 2,000 people got to tour the new facility during a fall athletic meeting. Though athletes had practiced in the new competition and auxiliary gyms, the first athletic contest came on New Trier's first day of school Monday, resulting in a Trevians girls volleyball victory over Libertyville.

A dedication ceremony and open house for the new athletic facility will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 9.

  New Trier's multiuse building that holds a new competition gymnasium is complete and being used by fall sports teams at the Winnetka campus. Joe Lewnard/

"The kids are just so excited when they walk through and they're taking videos with their phone," said Andy Butler, New Trier's chair of kinetic wellness. "It has been an overwhelmingly positive response, especially the design where there's so much natural light. You can see every single level from the track up to the classrooms on the third floor. One of our major goals was to create a space kids wanted to be in, and it's been reaffirming. Very positive reviews."

  A weight room located next door to New Trier's new competition gymnasium, which is complete and being used by fall sports teams. Joe Lewnard/

As the head girls track coach, Butler noted the "dramatic difference" of the new Mondo-surface, 160-meter, 6-lane indoor track. Built with a higher ceiling and no interior columns, it expands the old track by 35 meters and two lanes, with a synthetic turf infield for practices and classes.

Fontanetta called the track a major highlight, as well as the new larger weight room and cardio loft, inspired by state-of-the-art facilities such as Northwestern's space along Lake Michigan and what might be offered at a quality health club.

  New Trier's center court circle from the 1928 Gates gym has been retained within an office across from the new competition gymnasium. Joe Lewnard/

The weight room offers functional movement space with about a 30-yard stretch of synthetic turf for stretching and plyometrics.

All New Trier students, not just athletes, will benefit from these improvements, including new locker rooms, 14 new classrooms, a climbing wall and high ropes course, a concession stand that doubles as an auxiliary food station, with concourse seating for students.

"The one thing we really worked hard for is making sure all these spaces are versatile and focused on being used from the morning all the way through the evening," Fontanetta said.

  Exterior view of New Trier High School's new competition gymnasium in Winnetka. Joe Lewnard/

New Trier's new competition gym has retractable bleacher seating on all four sides of the basketball/volleyball court, offers an LED scoreboard, an east-side balcony and, in an ode to the 1928 Gates Gymnasium, a barrel roof.

Also saluting the old gym, its center court logo is installed at the entrance to the Athletics and Kinetics Wellness offices. Old gym flooring is used on walls framing the Trevian Cafe. Wooden planks from Gates' concrete bleachers were repurposed for bleachers for the indoor track.

  New Trier's multiuse building, left, which holds a new competition gymnasium, is complete and being used by fall sports teams at the Winnetka campus. Joe Lewnard/

The project is ADA accessible, highlights brick over cinder block, matches the prior footprint, adjoining levels and architecture and, importantly, replaced the school's 1925 boiler plant.

All Trevians indoor sports events will be held in Winnetka, with outdoor sports, except for track, held at the freshman campus in Northfield.

"I can't pick a single space," Butler said about his favorite aspect. "But the way they incorporate natural light into every single space is really remarkable."

  New Trier High School Athletic Director Augie Fontanetta gives a tour of the building that houses a new competition gymnasium, which has recently been completed at the Winnetka campus. Joe Lewnard/

Pepper Construction, working with lead architect Wight & Company, built the project. District 203 architect, the Cashman Stahler Group, and famed architectural design firm HOK consulted.

Both Fontanetta and Butler felt fortunate to collaborate on such an important project.

Fontanetta added, it couldn't have been done without the leadership of Superintendent Paul Sally, Associate Superintendent Chris Johnson, Director of Physical Plant Services Dave Conway and Principal Denise Dubravec.

  A track and field facility is located beneath New Trier High School's new competition gymnasium. Joe Lewnard/

"They really were instrumental and, of course, our board of education, too, recognizing that the needs of our students were not being met the way they should be and the standard New Trier should offer," Fontanetta said. "They carried out the vision to bring the east side of our campus to meet the needs of our students currently and in the future ... it's going to benefit New Trier for generations to come."

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