Devils new digs taking shape in Eagle Valley
GYPSUM, Colorado ” Eagle Valley High School junior Alex Woods says its been a bit crazy to attend classes this year in a construction zone in Gypsum, Colorado.
“But I am blown away to be a senior next year in a brand new school,” he adds.
Classmate Emily Kingston agrees. “It’s hard right now, but I’m so excited about the new gym and everything.”
The “everything” Kingston is referring to is a $25 million remodel. Unlike its upvalley rival, Battle Mountain High School, Eagle Valley isn’t getting a new building. But according to Eagle Valley Principal Mark Strakbein, the school is actually getting something more valuable.
“I feel we are very fortunate here in the fact that we were able to maintain the traditions and community feeling and attitude of EVHS at the same time we are upgrading to a state-of-the-art building,” he says.
“The addition and remodel will be pretty special and it will be all ours.”
According to Strakbein, the high school sitting at the junction of Valley Road and U.S. Highway 6, is a touchstone for the community. He talks about the school’s rich history, noting that really can’t be duplicated at another site.
But, at the same time, with 730 students, Eagle Valley has the largest enrollment of any building in Eagle County Schools. The first area of glaring need was the school’s cafeteria.
For years, the hallway that is also the entrance to the school gym and auditorium has doubled as the school’s cafeteria. The space has been additionally constrained during this year’s construction. Currently, lunch is served in about 1/3 of the space it formerly used and tables spill over into the hallway that leads to the locker rooms. But, according to Strakbein, the kids have just adapted.
At the centerpiece of the remodel is a new student commons. The expansive room features huge windows and abundant natural light. Strakbein said the commons will be a place for students to gather and study and a great community resource.
“The kids will be able to see outside, and they won’t get as stir crazy,” says Athletic Director Cliff Zehring.
Immediately south of the new commons is a new gym. The new facility will seat between 1,000 and 1,200 people and include a larger court.
“You will be able to walk behind the teams and the cheerleaders instead of in front of them,” says Zehring.
The current gym will remain in service for junior varsity games, practices and other events and a little bit of its history will be highlighted at the new gym. The iconic Hot Stuff devil, painted on the old gym wall, will be reproduced on the new gym floor.
The school’s locker rooms will be remodeled and the former auxiliary gym has already been converted into an art wing. There are two new classrooms and a new ceramics room.
The auditorium is getting a massive facelift as part of the remodel. The facility isn’t gaining seats, but it will have a new sound and lighting booth and the stage will be improved. The school also plans to use the auditorium as a lecture hall to give students a taste of what college classes are like.
Band and music students will get new quarters next year and the old band room will be a stage prep area.
Technology improvements are another big theme. The school’s wood shop is slated for upgrade and an entirely new technology wing is being built at the southwest corner of the building.
A new computer-aided drafting room will feature 25 stations and two new computer labs will be housed in the addition. The broadcasting program will also get new space, complete with production areas and a studio.
Rounding out the building remodel will be a new main office for the school and a new parking area/bus drop-off on the south side of the building.
The school board my decide this summer whether to fund extensive upgrades to Hot Stuff Stadium. New bleachers, lighting, artificial turf and an 8-lane track could cost $3.5 million. This proposal has generated much discussion as residents have watched a new stadium being built at the new Battle Mountain High School in Edwards.
“The goal is equity between all the schools in Eagle County,” says Strakbein.
Eagle County Schools Finance Director Phil Onofrio said the Eagle Valley renovations have benefited from cost savings at other school construction sites. The budget for Eagle Valley upgrades has increased from $8 million to $25 million. He says the stadium work is still possible, but the board of education can’t approve the construction yet.
“I’m hopeful it can happen,” says Onofrio. “We just have to make sure we have the money to finish the main school.”