Copyright 2016 South Bend Tribune Corporation
All Rights Reserved
South Bend Tribune (Indiana)
ELKHART -- Thanks to the generosity of donors, Elkhart Christian Academy will have a significant increase in sports facilities very soon.
A two-phase project will give the Eagles more room to soar. When both phases are complete, the entire sports complex will have about 28,000 square feet.
ECA currently has one full-size gym and a three-quarter court auxiliary gym.
"It will more than double our gym space," advancement and athletic director Jed Long said of the expansion.
Right now, high school and junior high basketball teams and cheerleading squads are dividing practice times before and after school and some workouts are taking place at Zion Missionary Church.
"It's going to be a huge blessing to have athletic facilities opened up," Long said. "It's going to be a game changer for us."
Spring sports include baseball, softball and boys and girls track for high school and junior high all vying for indoor practice areas.
Richelle Viront, ECA's assistant AD and head volleyball coach, had five teams -- high school and junior high -- sharing the two existing gyms last fall.
"This is going to be unbelievable for us," Viront said.
Phase I includes an operational practice facility with a double-wide basketball court and the hall that leads to it.
When ready for competition, the gym will hold about 1,250 -- more than double the capacity of the current gym.
A two-lane running track on the second level will also be completed as part of the project, though it's not yet certain whether it will be in Phase I or Phase II.
At the current rate, Phase I of the new athletic center will be available for practices and physical education classes by late January.
Phase II will include new locker rooms for boys and girls, public restrooms and rooms for athletic training, game officials and weight training as well as a new athletic office. The lobby and concession area will also be finished.
Long stresses the new facility would not have been possible without the beneficence of businesses and individuals.
"It will be a fully donor-driven project," Long said, while noting that Phase I went into last week just $130,000 shy of the almost $2.4 million in donated funds and builder services. Phase II is expected to cost upward of $1.5 million. "I realize that their gifts recognize their belief in our mission."
That mission goes well beyond athletics.
A mission trip took ECA students, staff and chaperones to the Dominican Republic in late October and early November.
Among the 35 students, 29 are involved in athletics. Two of those are seniors Garrett McKee (cross-country and track) and Bailey Perkins (cheerleading and softball).
"We played with the kids and did skits with a biblical message," McKee said.
The group also had a chance to visit with orphans and nursing home residents during the visit sponsored by SCORE International.
The experience was eye-opening for McKee.
"It was the first time I saw that kind of poverty," McKee said. "They really have absolutely nothing and they were so happy and love life."
McKee also enjoyed bonding on the trip with his cross-country and track coach Peter Casaletto (an ECA Spanish teacher who served as an interpreter) during talks and runs.
Personal growth came to Perkins.
"I liked that I got a chance to get out of my comfort zone," Perkins said. "I'm used to following a certain routine and this was definitely different than anything I'm used to, but it taught be a lot."
Steve Krah is a veteran sportswriter from Elkhart. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter