Barring any unforeseen last-minute obstacles, demolition of Palo Alto High's historic main gym will begin on Wednesday. Also scheduled to be razed is the old girls' gym. Both will be replaced by the school's new $36 million athletic facility.
A lot of planning and scheduling has gone into the project, which is more than a year behind schedule. What was going to be overseen by Jason Fung, Paly's athletic director last year, is now in the hands of the school's new AD, Kathi Bowers.
Aside from the normal AD duties, Bowers has had her hands full with finding practice facilities and scheduling buses for the volleyball and water polo teams -- all of whom are playing home games on the road this season.
The locker rooms and weight room were moved during the summer to the old math building, which is also the new home of the football team.
"We've been out of the gym for quite a while," said Jake Halas, beginning his second year as head coach. "We have three portables and the former math building to serve as our football facilities. To be quite honest, it's a better setup than we had in the big gym. We have more room. Facilities will not be an issue during football season."
Fortunately for the football team, there is no disruption with practice or games. That, however, is not the case for the volleyball and water polo teams that had to find temporary homes.
"The relocation plan that was in place in Fall of 2014 (when construction was supposed to start) was no longer viable as Stanford changed their rental policies and would not rent to us this year," said Bowers. "And, the other contracts were not re-negotiated for 2015, due to the ambiguity of the project and start date.
"We have been scrambling for pool space all summer. Currently they are in four different pools, but some rentals run out on Sept 18th."
The boys and girls water polo teams are currently practicing at Eagle Park and Rengstorff pools, both in Mountain View. After Sept. 14, the teams will switch between Eagle Park and Gunn for practices. All home games will be played at Gunn, unless there is an overlap with the Titans that would force home matches at another school site.
To make things even more interesting, the boys have a new head coach in Aaron Johnson, Paly's frosh-soph coach the past two year. He replaces his older brother, Brandon, who has taken a full-time teaching job at Herbert Hoover Middle School in San Francisco and will be moving there.
"Commute was too hard and thought it was a good time for Aaron to take over," said Brandon. "He is very excited about the opportunity."
"This was very sudden as he was offered the job on the Friday (Aug. 14) before school started," Bowers explained. "Aaron took over the varsity job on Monday the 17th."
"It has been tough not having our home pool this year, but we have made it a relatively smooth transition and have our pools/times set for the season," Aaron Johnson said. "We are playing our home games at Gunn this year, a great facility we are grateful to be in."
Johnson will make his debut in the Gunn pool on Sept. 15 against Wilcox and will face his other brother, Gunn coach Matt, when the rivals meet Sept. 24.
"I had a ton of support from our Athletic Director, Kathleen Bowers, as well as my team parent, Kristen Anderson, who have both been doing an unbelievable job in a pretty crazy time," Aaron Johnson said. "We are off to a great start, and I am looking forward to the season."
The Palo Alto volleyball teams, meanwhile, will be practicing at Gunn and Terman Middle School and playing home matches in Bow Gym, the Titans' old facility.
Jekara Wilson is Paly's new varsity head coach after spending the past nine years as the JV coach. She was hired in May, before Bowers came on board. Wilson replaces Daniele Desiderio following his one-year stint.
"I am not all that nervous for my debut as head coach, since I am fairly familiar with the program," Wilson said. "I am more excited and eager more than anything. We have a new fantastic AD, Kathi Bowers, who has been marvelous in trying to make the move to Gunn as seamless as possible.
"Of course, it hasn't been without hiccups. But, overall, the girls are adjusting very well. I just hope we are able to get some fans over to Gunn to watch our matches!"
Suffice it to say, the Palo Alto volleyball and water polo teams will be experiencing a lot of bus rides this season. And the same goes for the hoop squads in the winter.
"Basketball will be practicing at six locations and we are currently still trying to finalize some rentals," said Bowers. "Our field space is still all intact, as are the tennis courts."