Dryden’s athletic facilities are getting a facelift. The Purple Lions recently debuted a brand new gym floor, which is part of a much larger capital improvement project worth nearly $39 million. The project was approved in 2017 and is expected to be completed next year.
If you ask Dryden’s athletic director, Todd Kwiatkowski, he’ll tell you the athletic makeover was long overdue. Looking around the county, he believes every school has updated their facilities within the last decade, whereas Dryden had not done so in the 20 years he’s worked in the district.
Of course, the project goes well beyond athletics. Dryden High School will have a renovated auditorium, four additional classrooms, a new music classroom, an improved band room and several security improvements. Work is constantly being done on the school both inside and out.
On the athletics side, this was a much-needed improvement. The gym is amongst other big changes, including improved baseball and softball fields that will debut in the spring, a new track, LED lighting on the football field and an overhauled pool system.
One improvement that did not get approved was a turf football field, which would have tacked on an additional $3 million to the project. Kwiatkowski still hopes that will be in the cards one day after the current overhaul is completed.
For now, though, the junior varsity volleyball team was the first to enjoy the improvements on Sept. 17, when it played on the brand new floor. The first two home games this season were held at Dryden Elementary School.
“They were actually a little nervous because it was given back over to us from the contractors on the day of their game. They hadn’t had a chance to practice on it yet,” Kwiatkowski said. “They practiced there all last year and played all their games there, so this was all new for them. Kids will get nervous sometimes, but it’s the same gym with fresh paint.”
The gym is not yet complete. LED lighting, a fresh coat of paint for the walls and brand-new championship banners (provided by the booster club) will all be added before the end of the project.
The banners are a nice bonus to all the capital improvements. Similar to the floor, they were well overdue for a change.
“Some of our banners are probably 30-40 years old. Some are 10-15 years old,” Kwiatkowski said. “As everyone knows, a banner fades over time, so we have multiple shades of purple. So, we’re going to make it all uniform, all the same style.”
In addition to the volleyball games, the Purple Lions’ basketball games and wrestling meets, as well as regular physical education classes, will all take place in the new-look gym at both the varsity and junior varsity level.
As previously mentioned, construction has been constant at Dryden High School. The improvements have left some teachers temporarily bouncing around from room to room. Kwiatkowski appreciates their patience and positive attitude throughout the process.
“Some [faculty members] have been displaced for quite some time. But they all come to work with a smile, and everyone seems to be doing quite well with it,” he said. “They can see the big picture down the road. A year from now, it’ll all be done and there will be a lot of brand-new spaces that will look great.”
Looking around the county and beyond, Kwiatkowski couldn’t help but feel left behind as other schools renovated their athletic facilities. Now, Dryden has caught up and then some, thanks to the capital improvement project, and Kwiatkowski couldn’t be happier.
“Schools aren’t necessarily in competition, but you want to have facilities that are up to date and modern. Let’s face it, our gym was probably a gym that was newer in the ’80s, so when you go to the newer facilities, there’s a noticeable difference,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s night and day from a newer to an older facility. It’s nice to be brought up to speed with some of the other facilities around here.”
When the project is complete, Dryden High School and the district as a whole will benefit greatly from its new look. From a sports perspective, Kwiatkowski expects that the new-and-improved fields and courts will boost athletic participation in the district for years to come.
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