Elder High School to Construct New Panther Fitness Center

Elder High School’s board of trustees recently approved the construction of a new fitness center at the storied corner of Vincent and Regina avenues in Price Hill. The 19,000-square-foot Panther Fitness Center will be the first new building established at Elder’s main campus since the basketball gymnasium, the Memorial Fieldhouse, was completed in 1980.
The conversation about building the new fitness center began in 2014 when current NFL tight end Kyle Rudolph – upon signing a contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings – pledged to help his high school improve its weight room facilities during his press conference. Rudolph, a 2008 graduate of Elder, later met with school administrators to discuss how to best meet the current and future needs of student-athletes. Quickly realizing that Elder had outgrown its current weight room in the Donohoe Center, a space utilized since 2001 with a capacity of just 59 occupants, it was decided to build the new fitness center and then repurpose the current space.

Kevin Espelage, Elder’s athletic director, is eager to break ground on the new facility. “Our weight room staff and coaches have done a great job managing the current space and the increased number of student-athletes training year-round. Thanks to Kyle’s generosity and commitment to Elder High School, we have this amazing opportunity to provide a state-of-the-art fitness center for student-athletes. It will strengthen the already-rich experience of being an Elder athlete and competing in our renowned venues – the Pit and the Panther Athletic Complex.”

The new Panther Fitness Center will feature a weight room on the first floor, which doubles the current space, as well as a more than 6,000-square-foot second-floor, multi-purpose room. The project is expected to be completed in two phases as funds are secured. Rudolph has personally committed his financial support and the school has already secured additional funding to complete Phase I, which includes:

  • construction of a two-story facility on the east side of the current school building;
  • completion of the first floor, featuring:
  • weight-training space (5,870 square feet);
  • changing room / locker room / restroom (860 square feet)
  • coaches’ office (520 square feet)
  • lobby;
  • outfitting the second floor in preparation for Phase II.
Once funded, Phase II will include:

  • multi-purpose room (6,000 square feet);
  • storage areas;
  • potential classroom / meeting space;
  • parking lot (on northwest side of school building);
  • re-purposing of the Donohoe Center, which currently houses a weight room, spirit shop and coaches’ office.
Elder principal Kurt Ruffing said, “This new facility will complement the $9.5 million in campus and classroom renovations that we have completed over the past three years, including new science labs, installation of LED lighting and air conditioning throughout the school, updated windows, and more. By keeping the best interests of our students and faculty at the forefront, these improvements will greatly enhance the academic environment – body, mind, and spirit – that we can offer to current and future men of Elder.”

Adam Rankin, Elder’s head strength and conditioning coordinator looks forward to the enhanced training programs and camaraderie the new facility will cultivate. “The added space and layout of new equipment will improve the safety and effectiveness of the weight room and our training programs. We also will be able to improve the teamwork and cohesiveness of our programs by allowing all levels to train at the same time, freshmen through varsity.”

Other benefits the new facility will offer include:

  • flexibility when scheduling in-season and out-of-season team activities;
  • ample training space during inclement weather;
  • ability to host team practices, thereby freeing up current space for other activities;
  • additional space for physical education classes;
  • area for potential community outreach programs.
Conceptual design work began in 2017, led by Jeffery Sackenheim, a project manager with SHP Leading Design. Input from Elder’s coaches and administration was collected through a series of design exercises. A groundbreaking for the new center is scheduled for early September of this year. Fundraising continues for Phase II of the project.