School celebrates official opening of new Viking Activity Center
Ribbon-cutting event for new facility held on Monday, March 9 – the first day of spring sports practices
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
After several delays, the Viking Activity Center – an expansion of Grayling High School’s physical education facilities – opened last week in time for the beginning of spring sports practices.
The school hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house event on Monday, presenting the recently completed facility to the community.
The Viking Activity Center offers the school a second gymnasium and more. The facility has a full basketball court that can also be used as a volleyball court or a tennis court by setting up the appropriate nets. The court can also be used for pickleball. The Viking Activity Center has two locker rooms on the ground floor, including one that can be accessed from outside of the school.
Upstairs, the Viking Activity Center has a dedicated space with a batting cage and artificial turf. The cage and turf area can be used by baseball and softball teams for hitting and fielding drills, and the golf squads can use it for hitting, chipping, and putting. Also upstairs, there is a track that connects to the existing gymnasium, creating a space for the track and field team to work on its distance running and sprinting during the spring when the outdoor track is unavailable due to weather issues.
“It looks great,” said Grayling High School Athletic Director Nate Maury. “Our teams are ready to use it. Everything’s in there. The lockers are in the locker room; it’s done completely.”
The school started the preparations for construction of the Viking Activity Center in the fall of 2018 with the removal of trees and having the utility lines marked. Construction of the facility began in the spring of 2019. School officials were hoping the Viking Activity Center would be finished by the start of the 2019-2020 school year, but a few aspects of the project took longer than expected.
Maury said it took a while to finish all of the inspections, with some of the delays involving plumbing and the elevator.
“Those were the two big things holding up at the end, making sure everything was up to code. Electrical, making sure everything was safe, no issues down the road,” Maury said.
The total cost of the project was approximately $2 million, according to school officials.
Maury said having the additional space will allow for high school teams to practice at Grayling High School instead of having to go to the Grayling Middle School.
“The options we have for practice, let alone games, it will make our kids better,” Maury said. “It gives everyone a space. I’m not interfering with you, you’re not interfering with me. All the sports you can play on this floor is endless.”
The new facility should especially help the tennis team, a squad that has practiced at the middle school for many years. Maury said the indoor tennis court at the Viking Activity Center is regulation and could be used for actual meets. The Viking Activity Center has a poured rubber floor surface, not wood like in the regular gymnasium.
“Tennis will be able to actually play a tennis match on a real tennis court before they even get outside,” Maury said.
Baseball and softball and golf now have a dedicated space to work on their swings. The school was able to move the existing batting cage from the gym into the new facility, which was a “significant cost savings,” Maury said. The cage has a new net and new support cables.
Maury said the school will explore options for adding a small set of bleachers to the facility this summer. The gym’s old scoreboards will be installed in the Viking Activity Center at some point.
As of early last week, the plan was to allow the public to use the facility for walking during the morning hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; however, the Viking Activity Center is now closed along with all other Crawford AuSable School District buildings due to the governor’s recent shutdown order. Late last week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the state’s schools to close from March 16 through April 5 in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan. Grayling closed its schools on Friday after a planned half-day, canceling all spring sports practices and other activities slated for the weekend of March 14-15.
COVID-19 is “a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. The symptoms include “fever, cough, (and) shortness of breath,” according to the CDC.