It would have been impossible to wipe the smiles from the faces of the participants in Saturday morning’s sneak preview of Marco Island Academy’s brand-new gymnasium on San Marco Road. Among the participants were recent MIA graduates Johnny Watt and Kevin Barry, who were co-valedictorians and leaders of the basketball team for the past four years. A number of next year’s team were there, too. Their coaches, Travis Barry and Jim Watt, were presiding over the on-court action. MIA founder Jane Watt gathered the group, including national advisory board member Mark Melvin, who also serves as the board’s project manager.
Head basketball coach Travis Barry was impressed as he entered the gym for the first time. “It’s the first time I’ve been in this building,” Barry said, “so I’m just taking it all in for the first time. I love it.” While Barry is delighted to be moving into the fabulous new facilities, he clearly appreciates the role Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS) has played. “I loved the middle school,” Barry said. “I’ve been coaching at the middle school for seven years, ever since Kevin and Johnny were sixth graders there. I love everything that they did for us. Without them we wouldn’t even have a basketball team. So, I’m really thankful for everything they’ve done for us – and continue to do. We’re still practicing over there through the summer until this is finished. I’m happy for these younger guys who are going to have this facility to play in. The soundproofing looks great. It’s great to have six glass backboards because we do a lot of individual skill work. And if you’ve got 12 players on your team you can have two players at each basket working on skill work. That will be great. A lot of times the side backboards aren’t glass, they’re metal. Looks like we have six of the same baskets, which is great. I love it. I also like the outdoor light. It’s beautiful. Stands on both sides. Look at the two scoreboards. I’m just trying to take it all in. It’s just a lot to take in.”
Barry gathered his players, past and present, at center court and laid out the plan for a brief scrimmage. He and assistant coach Jim Watt joined in the action with their players. Melvin, who has his finger on the pulse of everything that is being done on the project, was happy to share some of the details of the gym’s construction. “The floor is all maple,” Melvin said proudly. “It’s on poured cement, then there’s a plastic sheeting laid down, there’s a vapor barrier, there’s foam on top of that. Then there’s floorboards across the court going 45 degrees one way and 45 degrees across the other way. On each of the sides we have blowers ventilating the floor to keep it from sweating. As you go along the sides, base molding allows it to breath all around. There’s three coats of sealer, then there’s three coats of final finish. The outside is all stained. They keys are stained. Everything else is painted. The gym is set up for multipurpose. We’re also set up for volleyball.”
Jane Watt couldn’t be prouder of the gymnasium. She made sure that it is as good as it can be. She’s not afraid to get tough, when necessary. “When we got our actual flooring bid it was for a grade that was below this,” she said. “So, we went and looked at a couple other gyms to compare. I wanted to upgrade the floor. It was more expensive. We made the decision. There were things we had to give up, there’s always give and take when you’re building anything. The gym floor was something I was not willing to concede on. I feel it is such a major focal point. I wanted the ceiling to disappear. The goal was to have everything up high white. That was nearly impossible. The whole goal was for everything up there to fade away. I just can’t believe how beautiful it turned out.” In addition to its function as a sports venue, the gymnasium is also designed to be a top-notch theatre venue.
“Of course, we have the theatre,” Melvin said. “We have mats to go down to protect the floor when we do theatre productions. We’re going to have navy floor covering that covers everything,” Watt added. “They will be on rollers so you can just unroll it and lay it out and tape it, so it covers the floor completely. So that when you’re having a theatre event you won’t have the basketball floor open like it is now. Underneath the stage there is hidden storage. We’re going to have chairs stacked on rolling carts that are tucked below the stage.”
Another exciting feature of the gymnasium is not one, but two sound systems. “We have a sound system for the gym and a separate sound system for the theatre,” Melvin said. “We’ll have big stage curtains and professional lighting for the stage. We can put 400 people in the bleachers.
“The two completely different sound systems are totally amazing,” Watt gushed. “There’s a sound system for games and then there’s a sound system for the stage.” The school’s board room overlooks the gymnasium. In addition to having a beautiful view of the gymnasium, it is also set up for sound. “All of the sound will be piped into the board room,” Watt said. “So, you can be sitting up here and listen to everything that is going on down there.”
Watt and Melvin are making sure that no detail is overlooked. “We’re in here every day,” Watt said matter-of-factly. “We do walk throughs every day. I’m so excited. It’s going to be unbelievable.”