ASHTON – So much for cramped gym space at Ashton-Franklin Center Junior-Senior High School.

More than $8 million in new additions and renovated classrooms will be shown off at an open house at 6:15 p.m. Friday.

A $7 million, 25,000-square-foot gym and fine arts addition was added to the junior-senior high school at 611 Western Ave., and nearly $1 million worth of work was done to bring existing biology and chemistry science labs up to date.

No taxes were raised for the project. The expansion is being paid for with a 20-year alternate revenue bond that will be paid with money from the countywide 1 percent sales tax.

The additions will benefit current students, as well as future ones, Superintendent John Zick said.

“It’s going to be a nice facility for our students to take advantage of in the fine arts area, the science area and the gym for extracurricular,” Zick said.

New band and chorus rooms take the place of a practice area on a stage overlooking the former gym.

“Acoustically, it wasn’t a situation we wanted long-term,” he said. “We had gotten by for many years using that setup, but now, fortunately, we’re in a room that acoustically beneficial to the students.”

The work also includes a resurfaced parking lot and new terrazzo flooring in the school's foyer.

Bleachers are on one side of the school's original, 61-year-old gym, with the stage on the other. The new space more than doubles the former capacity of 500; the new gym can hold 1,200 with seating on three sides.

The concession stand was located on the stage during athletic events, and team seating for volleyball butted up against the bottom of the stage. Both situations have been rectified; a stand-alone concession stand was built and there is more practice space for volleyball warm-up drills.

The gym had its first athletic event on Oct. 26, when the varsity volleyball team hosted the Marcia Thompson Invitational, Athletic Director Traci Gittleson said.

“We didn’t have a ton of the public in there, but with our open house, we’re hoping to get a bunch of people,” Gittleson said.

Meet The Raiders, the school’s winter sports introductory event, will follow the open house at the gym.

The first girls basketball games are at 6 p.m. Monday, when the Raiders host Durand in fresh-soph and varsity action. Boys basketball opens its varsity Thanksgiving tournament at 6 p.m. Nov. 25 with a game versus Varna Midland.

As for the former gym, it now will be use for middle school P.E. classes and athletic events. The middle school moved into the Ashton building 3 years ago, but its gym was utilized for athletic events until last year.

“It is a great addition and makes life easier here, too,” Gittleson said. “We’re all centrally located in this building."

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