Hendersonville – The nearly century-old Hendersonville High School is early into an academic year blessed by its extensive new main classroom, multi-purpose building and athletic training facilities.
Huge Bearcat eyes on a wall greet visitors who enter the main entrance from Oakland Street, or who see it at the end of a long hallway that leads to Pardue Gymnasium. A huge cat paw adorns the renovated Pardue Gymnasium.
These mascot emblems and color schemes are concepts that HHS principal Bobby Wilkins got into plans of firms PFA and LS3P Associates. You might say Wilkins has his paws on the blueprints. Or as he puts it, “It’s all through my eyes.”
“Everyone passing by knows we are the Bearcats,” junior Cooper King said. “This is our new facility. It’s a great symbol. I enjoy the art.” He also likes red flooring portions that fit the school’s red and white colors. Carpet is grey, the team’s third color.
The new main building is along Oakland Street. It opened in mid-August — five months ahead of its targeted debut in January. “We’re on time and on budget — with some savings,” Henderson County Public Schools Supt. Dr. John Bryant told the Tribune. “The total project (i.e. new auxiliary gym) is 11 months ahead.”
Airy ‘Learning Mall’
The elongated “Learning Mall” — as the Tribune call it — houses such classes as Career and Technical Education (CTE), science and science labs. It contains the media center, lockers and offices. A century-old vault is in a hall.
King relishes the “massive hallway” and the airy and “modern feel” in spacious rooms with large windows. He likes how “sunlight is pouring” into the library with its many windows. He starts his day there for an online class.
He said the new building has “way more light” than the 95-year-old Stillwell building that is getting renovated. Stillwell is named after its architect, famed Erle Stillwell (1885-1978). It debuted in 1926.
The public enters the spruced-up 1974 Pardue Gym from a north-side parking lot through a hallway. That provides space to buy concessions and dry out from any rain. The gym no longer has its own exterior doors. Students can use that hall in the main building to reach the gym. Pardue Gym also links to the auxiliary/practice gym.
Dr. Bryant said the campus “flows in a really unique and beautiful way. There are large common areas such as the media center. It’s a tremendous design.”
The new main building consolidates the cafeteria, kitchen and music/band rooms that were in under-sized, free-standing structures razed last year. Bryant said “the prior campus was pieced together like a puzzle” in different eras. It was last renovated 30 years ago.
‘V’ Gone, Trailers In
Also gone is the 40-year-old vocational “V” building. A courtyard will be in its place by next year. That is behind the home stadium stands.
“The courtyard is a centerpiece” of the campus, Supt. Bryant said. “We’re preserving that outdoor element.”
English, social studies and math classes — subjects that will return to Stillwell in a year — are in 15 modular classrooms at the northern end of campus. King has some classes in trailers. “They can fit everyone. It’s a good space to learn.”
The old trailers arrived in orange and other colors, but are all painted grey for a streamlined look, Wilkins noted. They will go once a renovated Stillwell holds classes starting in 2021-22.
Utilizing the new main buildTrailers for classes frees Vannoy Construction to fully renovate the brick Stillwell building. “Stillwell is getting a full scale renovation” in its interior and an exterior make-over, Supt. Bryant said. “It’ll only look the same from the outside.” It is already gutted.
King said “I can’t wait to see Stillwell in my senior year, and the (enclosed sky bridge) glass walkway” that will link Stillwell with the new main building.
Stillwell will have fewer but larger classrooms to fit statewide standards for square footage, Supt. Bryant said. Large windows will let in “natural light to create spaces that are inviting and creative.” Wilkins points out many new windows are already in.
The project involves constructing and clearing 90,000 square feet and renovating 85,000 square feet — Stillwell and Pardue Gym. Stillwell is fenced off from the rest of campus and from pedestrians on the sidewalk of Bearcat Boulevard at the south side of campus leading to the athletic field. Until August, the new portion of campus was fenced off from an actively-used Stillwell.
Tom Orr Auditorium?
Stillwell’s jewel is its auditorium with gallant classical exterior columns. Many events in it were for the public. It will be “fully renovated to state-of-the-art standards,” Supt. Bryant said. He said the capacity will slightly rise from the prior 800 seats with more wheelchair space. The lobby was removed to free space for more seating in back.
The auditorium entrance shifts from Bearcat Boulevard to behind the stage. The exterior entrance will be at the courtyard on the campus’ southwestern corner.
Tom Orr, longtime HHS drama instructor, died Jan. 3 at age 81. The former school board chairman was the sole nominee Sept. 13 for nameing the auditorium, in the latest school board meeting.
The new auxiliary gym’s ground level has athletic locker rooms; and weight, training and coaches’ rooms nearby.
The old fieldhouse/old gym was very confined and dark. HHS varsity football head coach Jim Sosebee is thrilled to escape “that dungeon.”
King stars as the leading soccer scorer and HHS football placekicker. He said the wide, spacious new athletic lockers are “ten times better” than old ones. The weight room has more machines. “Everything is more modern and clean.” With “better facilities it gives us more (emotional) drive” as athletes.
Money was saved from the original $60 million pricetag by renovating rather than replacing Pardue Gym and the auditorium, retaining old stadium stands, and delaying $2 million in Dietz Field upgradess. HHS is to get a turf field, wider track, stormwater line and
new press box.