Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Bishop Gorman High School incoming senior football player Jake Smirk remembers pausing in amazement when he first walked into the school’s new state-of-the-art athletic training center.
He’s not the only one.
The 41,324-square-foot Fertitta Athletic Training Center, which opened last month, is more than a weight-training area. And it’s going to be used by more than the Gaels’ nationally ranked and three-time defending state champion football team.
The center has all of the bells and whistles you’d expect in a modern facility. It includes a four-lane, 60-yard track, a 90-seat classroom designed for film study and teacher training, and an athletic training room with a 4-foot hydrotherapy pool and 50-degree ice bath.
And that’s just on the first floor.
The two-level center’s second floor is mostly space for banquets or pregame meals and to store championship trophies. This summer, it is being used by the Gorman cheerleading team, which previously had no permanent practice space. The balcony has a perfect view of the field — and the Strip — and will be used by the team’s videographer to record game film.
On the outside, there is a sand volleyball court and about a 30-yard turf field complete with hash marks.
School officials, in honoring the request of donors, aren’t releasing details of the donation that completely funded the project.
“I was completely amazed. Stunned and speechless,” Smirk said. “I’m so thankful for everyone who made this possible. I’m so glad we have it to get better.”
Gorman isn’t the only local high school that recently moved into an upgraded facility. Although the new spaces at Arbor View and Del Sol highs don’t equal Gorman’s project, coaches at those schools echo the comments of Gorman coaches: It gives players a sense of pride, especially during offseason conditioning.
Arbor View’s new 3,500-square-foot weight room is filled with custom weights and racks with the school’s colors and logo. Most of the equipment is new.
“We sold a lot of hot chocolate during cold November games for this,” Arbor View coach Dan Barnson said. “This wasn’t a one-year thing. Over the years, we put money aside, saving and saving and saving. The end result was awesome. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Gorman coach Tony Sanchez feels the same way about his facility. Sanchez, who had a big hand in the design, is especially proud of how the center honors Gorman’s history.
In the entrance, there’s a framed black-and-white photo of Gorman’s original campus when it opened in 1954 on Maryland Parkway between Sahara Avenue and Charleston Boulevard. Gorman moved to Summerlin in 2007.
“This is where we came from, 1954 to 2007,” Sanchez said, pointing to the photo. “All of the people who came through Gorman and did so much and gave so much for these kids to have the opportunity for a first-class education and athletic experience; we won’t forget that.”
Throughout the center, there are several portraits of Gorman players in uniform, and each is wearing jersey No. 54. The Gorman ‘G’ is visible at every turn, including the ceiling in virtually every room, the locker room and at the bottom of the training room spa.
The first floor includes an 11,470-square-foot weight-training area, an office and work area for the coaches, and a state-of-the-art locker room. Each football player has his own locker stall, which includes his photo, an electronic pass-code lock box, a folding chair with the Gorman logo and space to hang gear. It resembles what you’d see in college and is better than what UNLV has.
On game days, players will walk from the locker room near the back of the facility, touch a bronze "G" for inspiration and head onto the field. Above the glass doors leading to the field is a sign reading “Play Like a Champion Today,” borrowing a line from Notre Dame.
“We have been successful as of late with a smaller weight room than most (schools) have,” Sanchez said. “Our weight room was smaller than Palo Verde’s and Arbor View’s, and we didn’t have any lack of success.
“What this has done is give us an opportunity to get more programs in at the same time so there is no strain on facilities. This is great and it is outstanding as long as we don’t forget who we are and where we came from.”
The facility's uses go beyond football. The girls volleyball team has lifted multiple times each week this summer, conferences and training for teachers frequently will occupy the classroom, and every athletic program and weight-training class will use the three-table training room and equipment.
Gorman’s football opener is Aug. 24 against Our Lady of Good Counsel of Maryland on ESPN, and the football team isn’t the only group preparing.
“For the past four years, it has been cheer kind of goes where no one else would,” said Maryelizabeth O’Donnell, a senior cheerleader. “We would have to bring our mats from the locker room to a foyer by the theater and be in everyone else’s way because there was no place to practice. We called it the echo room. Having a place where we can get work done and not bug people is amazing.”
That’s what the athletes at Del Sol are saying after moving into their new 4,500-square-foot weight room. The room includes five new double racks, plus new weights and other equipment. Like Gorman, the equipment is customized with Del Sol colors.
“It helps extend the importance of weight lifting in athletics,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “They see how important it is. (The new area) just gives them a little more sense of pride.”
At Arbor View, Barnson said improvement in the weight room has transformed the team. The Aggies have a 19-5 record over the past two years and reached the Sunset Regional semifinals both seasons.
During the school’s second year in 2006, Barnson had a goal of 40 players lifting more than 225 pounds in the power clean. Only two were capable. Two years ago, when the Aggies made the playoffs for the first time, 41 players accomplished the goal.
This year, with momentum from getting the new facility and the strength his players already have, Barnson increased the power-clean mark to 250 pounds — a similar philosophy Las Vegas High used during its dominating seasons starting about a decade ago.
On the wall of the facility is a board tracking which players have accomplished weight-lifting feats.
“It is what we demand if you want to be part of this program,” Barnson said. “If you want to play for us, you have to lift weights. We just don’t hand out a workout and say, ‘Go do it.’ It’s always a whistle system, and the kids are into their lifts.”