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ConVal gym renovations force winter teams to adjust

  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal wrestling team practices in the old Brookstone Building due to the renovations to the school's gymnasium.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

With the ConVal gymnasium renovations still ongoing, the winter sports teams at the school will be spending the entire season away from their usual home.

The original projection for completion of the renovation to the gym, locker rooms, bathrooms, elevator and adjacent areas was late January, but like any construction project of this magnitude the end date has been pushed back a bit. The new date for completion is March, but that is too late for the boys and girls basketball teams, as well as the wrestling team, to use ConVal for any of their home matches.

“We know the end result is a beautiful new gym,” said ConVal principal and girls basketball coach Brian Pickering on Wednesday.

Since the project was approved by voters in March, it was no secret that the gym would be out of commission for at least a portion of the winter season. A little over a month ago is when the updated completion date was determined and it forced a new approach to the end of the season.

Originally, athletic director Jon Hall had backloaded the schedules with the hope that the teams could get into the gym by February and play most of their scheduled home games at ConVal. That won’t be the case.

“It’s going to be really good when it’s done, but it’s a process we have to go through,” Hall said on Tuesday.

Schedules for a season are completed a year in advance, so after the $4 million bond was narrowly approved by ConVal school district voters at the polls, Hall adjusted some of the basketball games to include away varsity doubleheaders in the anticipation for home games later in the year. Since the new timeline for completion was determined, Hall has done some more tweaking to the schedules.

“I have been working on this all year,” Hall said.

So the plan now is to play all the home basketball games at Great Brook School in Antrim, while the wrestling team tentatively has only one home match for the entire season.

“It kind of throws a little wrinkle in [the process],” said ConVal wrestling coach Brian Whittemore. “After 30 years of using the same room, you kind of have a routine. But when it’s all done it will be worth it.”

The boys basketball squad plays six of its first nine games on the road through the end of January and will have just eight of its 18 games played at Great Brook. The girls have just two home games through January before playing seven straight at Great Brook between Feb. 1 and the end of the regular season. The second game of the season on Dec. 11 against Monadnock will be at GBS, but then the Cougars play seven straight away from the confines of their temporary home.

“We’re going to be road warriors for much of the season,” said Pickering.

But the group most affected is the ConVal wrestlers. In a typical season, the Cougars will have anywhere from five to seven home meets. As of now, they have one at South Meadow School in late January, but that’s about it.

“That’s the one downer,” said Whittemore. “This year’s going to be a little different. We’ve just got to live with it and work with it.”

The annual ConVal Early Bird tournament is being hosted by Bellows Falls Union High School under the same name, but the money raised from entry and concessions will not go to the ConVal team.

And while games are what define the success and failure of a team, it is the practices that make up a substantial part of the season, and that has also been greatly altered by the renovations.

“We may be more inclined to separate JV and varsity a little more often than we would in our gym,” said Pickering. “How we choose to utilize the time may be a little different.”

This season has been more work to figure out how to schedule practices than in years past.

“Jon Hall and I and the other coaches have spent a little more time trying to project ahead,” Pickering said. “Before we could easily make adjustments internally on the fly.”

The basketball teams will use various times at GBS, SMS and Peterborough Elementary School, but unlike when they are in their own gym, the teams will have to work around school functions and the middle school athletic teams. SMS has two boys and two girls basketball teams, while GBS has one of each.

“Logistically it’s a lot more involved because I’m working around other teams’ schedules,” said Hall. “Obviously SMS, Great Brook and PES school programs come first and we come after that.”

The wrestling team, on the other hand, will be using a space rented out at the old Brookstone building on Vose Farm Road, located across Route 202 from the high school. The team, along with the spirit squad and the physical education department, has a strip of the old warehouse to use for the winter, and while it is sufficient for practicing, there is no way to host a meet.

“Like anything, it has its pluses and minuses,” Whittemore said. “It’s a matter of being flexible on my part. We’ll make it work.”

The ConVal weight room was previously moved to the location in August and with winter right around the corner, the physical education classes will not have the luxury of going outside.

Once the news came that the gym would not be ready till after the winter season, an informational meeting was held with parents to discuss the challenges of it all.

“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any disappointment,” said Pickering. “I think people realize there are a lot of variables that go into a project of this size.”

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