Basketball games at Shorecrest Preparatory School used to get rained out, thanks to the leaky roof of the 38-year-old gym.
That's not a problem anymore: Shorecrest recently built a 34,000- square-foot athletic center with solid roofing and other amenities.
"We desperately needed a new gym," said Diana Whittle, Shorecrest's director of marketing and communications. "The great thing about this athletic center is, it can fit all 1,000 of our students at the same place at the same time."
The $7 million center is the latest addition to the Shorecrest campus, which has seen a spate of new buildings in the past several years including a theater and schoolhouses for middle and high school students.
These buildings give Shorecrest an edge in a time when many private schools are struggling with enrollment and keeping afloat. While some Pinellas private schools wrestle with keeping their doors open, Shorecrest is booming.
"We have the highest enrollment ever this year, in the history of the school," Whittle said. "Certainly, having facilities that match the excellence of the faculty makes a difference. . . . It's a spectacular campus, and it shows well."
With the new facility, Shorecrest officials say they are able to offer more sports and physical activity programs that include preschool to high school students. There are also plans to add a second floor to the athletic center to increase space.
The athletic center has a gymnasium and weight training spaces, basketball and volleyball courts, rooms for dance, wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading, and concession booths.
There are 51 teams at the school engaged in 22 sports, said Tripp Welborne, Shorecrest's athletic director. The school added wrestling, flag football and bowling teams last year, and plans to set up boys volleyball, fencing and lacrosse programs.
"Every kid has the opportunity to compete in something," he said. "This is where they learn about life themselves — if it's something worth having, somebody wants it too. This gives our kids a chance to compete in a nurturing environment."
The bigger space allows students to engage in multiple activities at the same time, said Whittle and Welborne.
School officials will be able to hold future assemblies, banquets, proms and fundraising galas at the center. It also serves as a cafeteria for the secondary school students, Whittle said.
"It's the most frequently used and flexible facility on campus," Welborne said.
Parents and students are happy with the athletic center.
Marc Jacobson's two sons, seventh-grader Jordan and third-grader Eric, use the new facility for physical education and after-school sports. Having been a parent of children at Shorecrest for 10 years, Jacobson appreciates the recent changes to the campus.
"This is a source of pride," he said. "I think one of the main reasons my wife and I chose Shorecrest is for the opportunities for our children. The facility improvement in the last 10 years enhances those opportunities."