Correction: This story originally published with the wrong amount of the school bond that funded the facilities upgrade. It has been corrected.
Officials at McLain High School welcomed local media onto campus Wednesday afternoon for a hard-hat tour of the school’s newly built $12 million athletic field house, which will soon house the school’s basketball and wrestling team, as well as a host of other events.
Funded as part of a record-setting $415 million bond package approved by the citizens of Tulsa in 2015, the multi-purpose facility is the latest addition in a greater effort by the Tulsa Public Schools Citizens Bond Development Committee to update and enhance the school district as it seeks to catch up to its suburban neighbors. McLain joins Booker T. Washington, Edison, Memorial, Webster and Will Rogers as city schools that have received funding for new athletic facilities in recent years.
“We really needed this,” McLain interim principal Renee Rabovsky said. “Our hope is that an investment like this will help our enrollment numbers and will help us keep our kids, as well. We’re absolutely thrilled.”
Construction crews from Tulsa-based company Flintco broke ground on the site in November 2017 with an initial planned completion date of June 2019. That date was pushed back when a central gas line needed to be moved and the school opted to build an additional auxiliary gym. “Substantial completion” of the field house now is expected by the end of July and the facility will be finished in time for the 2019-20 basketball season.
McLain’s new field house will include all the features and amenities of the top high school athletic facilities in the area. Modeled similarly to Memorial’s Veterans Arena, the facility features two gyms — one that will seat more than 1,000 spectators and the other a practice gym — along with improved locker rooms, meeting and film rooms, a hospitality area and a spirit store. The hope among school officials is that the state-of-the-art building will help attract events such as outside tournaments and other functions.
The facility also will offer McLain and its athletic programs newfound versatility. Previously limited to a single gym that was originally constructed in 1959, the school sometimes had as many as six teams vying for practice time in one space. Now, even during the busiest high school sports seasons, that should no longer be an issue.
“We’ve been waiting for something like this,” athletic director Philip Johnson said. “This is going to be a game-changer. Now we feel like we’re in the game with schools like Memorial, Will Rogers, Edison, places like that. We feel like we’re on par with them now.”
A sentiment shared by all of the school officials in attendance Wednesday was an excitement for the students at McLain who would have the opportunity to enjoy and thrive in the new facility.
Existing in a school district in which five schools received massive renovations in recent years, and surrounded by suburban powerhouses like Jenks and Union, McLain has at times found itself on the outside looking in. With this new facility, it is now the Titans who have something new in which to be proud, and officials like Rabovsky and Johnson are hopeful the addition will have a powerful impact on the school’s student body.
“There’s been a perception out there about how we don’t get anything nice and things like that,” Johnson said. “Getting something new makes you feel like you belong. Now our kids can go to their neighborhood functions proud and tell people that their school is just like all the other schools, or maybe better even.”