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Mira Costa Gym Shows Its Age

Oct 19, 2016 01:08PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The boys' locker room at the Mira Costa gym

The 65-year-old Mira Costa High School gym has served generations of Manhattan Beach students. But is it still able to do the job it was meant to do? To learn more, DigMB recently took one of many tours of the gym being offered by Yes of C/Yes on EE team.

By way of background, the current Mira Costa gym was built in 1951, one year after the high school was established. Mira Costa's first graduating class, in 1953, had only 247 students. In contrast, today's Mira Costa has a student body of 2,600, with 1,500 athletes.

Measure EE on the November 8 ballot would fund the building of a new and modern athletics complex at Mira Costa for athletic teams, girls' and boys' PE, health education, and community use. The proposed new facility would deliver six times more usable space and would impact all 33 high school sports and public events.

With that important vote hanging in the balance, the Mira Costa gym has been under a great deal of scrutiny lately, with community members lining up for public tours of the facility throughout the month of October. 

From the outside, there's not much to notice about the current gym aside from nondescript brick buildings and the occasional wall-mounted air conditioner. But inside, it's a maze of dark corridors, small rooms, and re-purposed spaces.

The main gym serves six volleyball teams and six basketball teams, but the full court is not regulation size, said our tour guide Susan Underwood, the parent of Mira Costa athletes. The bleacher space is also inadequate for big games; spectators often have to be turned away for lack of room. Additionally, she said, there is dry rot above the windows that causes leakage.

"If it rains, you have to stop the basketball game," noted Underwood.

Continuing through to the boys' locker room, the lockers look as if they have been through war:  dented and scratched with many doors missing.

Perhaps more troubling, the locker room has the only available bathroom for players or spectators. "If you're watching the game, you have to come through the locker room, because this is the only bathroom," said Underwood.

On the women's side, the bathroom situation is the same - spectators have to come into the locker room to use the only restroom.

Additionally, the showers (the building's original showers) are non-operational and haven't been used for almost 40 years. The shower alcove is now filled with old tables and chairs, and girls don't have an opportunity to shower.

"You can try to renovate and put new showers in, but [the space] is just too small," said Underwood. "At a certain point, you're just going to have to start over."

In the training room, there are just two beds, two ice machines, a desk, and one mini hot tub crammed into a tiny space that's barely big enough for an office. We talked with trainers Tim and Cam, who told us that they have times when there are 30 or 40 athletes lined up for treatment.

Adding to the inconvenience, the entrance to the training area is blocked by a giant yellow curb, which makes for a treacherous entrance for just about anyone, especially an injured athlete.

Continuing on to other sections, the wrestling gym is dark and smelly - there's no natural light and no ventilation - and just a single one-stall bathroom that has to serve both boys and girls. The small gym in the back of the complex has similar ventilation and light issues, along with warped and water-damaged floor planks.

The new complex would hold an "event pavilion" with four full-sized courts altogether: three main courts, plus a "practice pavilion" that could be used for additional games or practices. There would be dedicated team rooms, P.E. lockers, dance and cheer space, a training/first aid room, ventilated weight rooms and wrestling rooms, and separate restrooms for the public.

The complex would also take advantage of an existing "dirt pile" next to the current building by creating a lower level easily accessible from the football field. There would be dedicated football and field sports team rooms, along with a platform weight room, a film room, and an additional training/first aid room.

Underwood said that the planning of the new complex was an exhaustive process whereby planners talked to all of the stakeholders about "what things work, what didn't work, and what they wanted."

Ultimately, she said, the proposed design creates a streamlined and modernized space that will meet the needs of today's students and provide expanded opportunities for community involvement in athletics.

While her children won't personally benefit from a new facility - they will have graduated by the time it could be built - she is continuing to be a strong advocate for the bond.

"I love that it's going to be great for the kids, but it's going to be really good for the community," she said.

For more information about Measures C and EE, visit

To hear more about the Mira Costa gym from Mira Costa alumna and Olympic volleyball player Holly McPeak, watch the video below.

YES on EE for new Mira Costa athletics complex

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