One of the largest building construction projects in Hamilton in recent years has received the OK to go ahead.
The new athletic center at Pingree School will be a 34,600 square foot stand alone building that will be home to three basketball courts, plus the athletic director’s office, training room and athletic supply storage.
An arts addition to the school's main building will total 14,000 square feet.
The Zoning Board of Appeals issued its written decision granting a permit for the work on Nov. 21. The complete decision is attached to this story as a PDF.
Pingree officials said that construction is expected to start in the spring.
The new building will go where a parking lot is now, south of the Johnson hockey rink and the school’s main building along the exit driveway.
There are a total of 243 paved parking spaces now, and there will be 243 parking spaces after the athletic center is build. Some spaces have already been added to the rink parking lot, on top of a new septic system that was added this past summer plus spaces that will go around the new athletic center.
“The places that we are taking away we are replacing in-kind,” said Art Dioli, the project’s architect.
Another 210 unpaved parking spaces will be available to meet the parking requirements for the newly constructed area, a requirement based on the increase is seating in the gym and theater.
There will also be a new drop off and pick up area near the athletic building.
The total project cost is estimated at $10 million.
The athletic center is designed to look like a barn and be “sympathetic” to the history of the property and look like a barn that may have been there when it was an estate.
One of the primary goals of the new building is to allow multiple winter sports practices to happen at the same time, so students can get home earlier. The goal is to have all students home by 6 p.m., Dioli said.
“We have one small gym,” said Jock Burns, Pingree’s finance director. The new building will have three gyms where three practices can be held simultaneously. Currently, Pingree rents some gym space at the Hamilton-Wenham Recreation Center and Shore Country Day School.
The art wing addition will also put all art programs together for the first time and also allow for access to the art room from the exterior without going through the theater.
It still remains to be decided how the current gym space will be used once the new building is complete.
“That’s still in the table,” Dioli said, adding it may be practice space or become a multi-purpose space.
The gym is the only area of the building where the school could be expanded.
“Any expansion we do later is probably going to come in that area,” he said.
But there are no plans to increase the student body size.
“The school community is 400 now and it will not increase,” Dioli said, which included about 330 students. Burns also said that the school does not plan to add any new sports teams as a result of the new construction.
During a Zoning Board hearing, Steve Ozahowski, a member of the Board of Assessors, asked whether the community would be able to use the new facility since Pingree is a non-profit that does not pay property taxes through a PILOT - payment in lieu of taxes - program.
Burns said currently the town can use the athletic facilities for a reduced fee and the theater is available for use by the community. The project will add air conditioning to the theater will make it available for use on more days.