Elder High School’s athletic programs have grown so much, they’re “bursting at the seams,” Athletic Director Kevin Espelage says, forcing coaches and athletes to improvise in outdated and overcrowded conditions.

That’s about to change—big-time.

Thanks to the largesse of Elder alumni, including three grads who went on to play for the National Football League, a new fitness center is being built. A grand opening is expected in May or June for the center, the first new construction on the Elder campus since the basketball field house was built almost 40 years ago.

Besides adding a “wow factor” to the school’s Price Hill campus, the $2 million center will provide much-needed space: 19,500 square feet with special flooring and about $1 million in equipment, Espelage says.

The first floor of the two-story center will provide nearly 6,000 square feet for weight training. That’s double the area of the existing facility, the Donohoe Center, where as many as 100 young athletes, representing 14 varsity teams, are crammed into space designed for about 60 people. As a result, athletes often must wait to use equipment, prolonging their training sessions unnecessarily.

Because the Donohoe Center is so crowded and also lacks air-conditioning, non-athletes “don’t bother” trying to use the facility to stay fit, Espelage says; perhaps those students will feel comfortable trying the new center.

The current center also has no area available for student-athletes to run speed-and-agility drills—activities now performed in the high school’s second-floor hallway. The new center will provide a better surface and improved safety for such workouts, Espelage says.

Construction on the new center began in October, about four years after Elder alumnus Kyle Rudolph signed a contract extension with his NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, and resolved to help improve weight-training facilities at his high school alma mater.

“I want to give these kids that are walking the halls of Elder now every resource and every opportunity they have to be successful, because that is what Elder did for me,” Rudolph said in a statement Elder released. He hopes the new center inspires athletes to excel. “When they see this facility and how incredible it is…maybe it will light that fire and make them work a little harder,” he said.

Rudolph said he’s honored to contribute to a legacy that he has watched since he was old enough to walk: “The Elder Man that works hard and has that tough mentality…they’re coming in [the weight room] each and every day and leaving it all in [there]. Exactly how the saying goes: ‘What I had, I gave; what I saved, I lost forever.’”

Significant financial contributions for the center came from Rudolph and from two other NFL football pros who graduated from Elder: Jacob McQuaide of the Los Angeles Rams and Eric Wood, who recently retired from the Buffalo Bills.

Additional funds are still needed to complete the second phase of the project, including a second-floor multipurpose room. The Donohoe Center will continue to house the school’s Spirit Shop and will also likely be used for meeting space.

Jakob James, a junior offensive lineman and co-captain of next year’s Panther football squad, says he and his teammates feel privileged to help inaugurate the new building: “We will be the first senior class to use the Fitness Center, so leadership will be a key role to us. We will be able to continue the hard-working legacy in the new Fitness Center that became so well-known in our current one.”


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