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Manhattan Beach School Officials Cut Ribbon on New Athletic Complex

Oct 31, 2021 10:36AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday has made it official: The new Mira Costa athletic complex in Manhattan Beach is formally open.

The $39-million state-of-the-art complex was funded by a bond measure, Measure EE, approved by Manhattan Beach voters in 2016. The 71,200 square-foot facility's main highlights include a 20,500 square foot three-court competition gym with a capacity for 2,100 spectators; and an 8,000 square foot auxiliary pavilion gym with a sweeping panoramic view of the football field and East Manhattan Beach.

Saturday's ribbon-cutting event was a who's-who of past and present Manhattan Beach education officials, including Superintendent John Bowes and the MBUSD school board, past superintendents Mike Matthews and Beverly Rohrer; former MBUSD board members; and past and present Mira Costa High School officials including Principal Karina Gerger and recently retired Principal Ben Dale.

Manhattan Beach Mayor Hildy Stern, and City Councilmembers Joe Franklin and Suzanne Hadley were also in attendance.

Additionally, at the ceremony, speakers gave special recognition to Manhattan Beach community leaders who championed the project, including Susan Underwood and MB/X Foundation founder Gary Wayland.

Dale, who served as principal throughout the facility's construction and completion, said that he believed in the project from the beginning because he felt that Mira Costa "needed a facility that matches the excellence of our teams."

"We've looked forward to this day for a very long time," said Dale. "We've worked really hard on this and it feels like a dream come true."

Dale noted that there were many ups and downs during the construction because of the pandemic, and at one point it looked as if construction might be shut down, but the school district worked with city officials, and the city "backed us up," he said.

"This is a lasting legacy and I'm very proud to have been a part of it," he added.

Several students were also in attendance to celebrate the official opening of the facility. 

"I'm so excited for what this gym has in store for us this year," said Natalie Lynch, a senior soccer player and a student member of the Manhattan Beach school board. "Even though it is big and beautiful, it still holds a lot of the same charm as (the former facility) Fisher Gym. I'm super excited for what the future holds."

Facility Funded by Voter-Approved Bond Measure

The athletic complex replaced Fisher Gym, which was built in 1951, one year after the high school was established. The high school's first graduating class, in 1953, had only 247 students. In contrast, today's Mira Costa has a student body of 2,500, with nearly 1,500 athletes.

By 2016, when the bond election was held, Fisher Gym had more than begun to show its age: The basketball court was not fully regulation size, and spectators often had to be turned away for lack of room. Dry rot in the roof had caused leakage, and if it rained, games had to be stopped. In the boys' locker room, lockers were dented or had no doors; on the girls' side, the showers were non-operational and hadn't been used for almost 40 years. On both the boys' and girls' sides, only one bathroom served both players and spectators, creating an awkward situation during games.

The school district broke ground on the construction in February 2019. It was finished in early spring 2021, but access was limited during the spring of 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.

In addition to the two main gyms, the new building features four locker rooms, six team rooms, a 1,200 square foot/60-person large classroom, two sprung-floor flex rooms, a 3,500 square foot weight room that opens to the outdoors adjoining Waller Stadium, a 3,200 square foot wrestling room, a state-of-the-art training room, an auxiliary weight room, an auxiliary training room, and a variety of conference and office space for coaches and staff.

One sentimental feature of the building is an entryway that pays homage to Mira Costa’s rich athletic tradition, including a ceiling feature created out of wood from the original floor of Fisher Gym, and a Hall of Fame that pays tribute to past Mira Costa athletic standouts.

As of this fall, the complex has already hosted numerous athletic and community events. Earlier this month, the new gym was host to the largest homecoming dance in memory, with 1,200 students participating. The facility will also host several championship games in the coming year.

On Friday night, the Mira Costa PTSA hosted a tailgate party at the athletic complex before the Mira Costa football game, with two levels of seated outdoor dining. Mira Costa beat Redondo Union, 55-34.

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