St. Andrew’s varsity cheerleading squad prepares to carry the cheerleading banner into the new ARC during a ceremony on Sunday.
St. Andrew’s varsity cheerleading squad prepares to carry the cheerleading banner into the new ARC during a ceremony on Sunday.
RIDGELAND — St. Andrew’s Episcopal School unveiled its newest state-of-the-art $14 million Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC) here on Sunday to a crowd of over 1,000 students, parents and alumni.

The 65,000 square-foot facility boasts a number features, including three competition courts, multi-purpose floor, Jumbotron, coaches’ offices and even a gift shop.

Brian Cronin, boys’ basketball head coach, said he is still overwhelmed at what the school was able to build. He met with officials a few years ago and stressed the need for a new facility as he continued to grow the basketball program, saying they had run out of room and resources.

“We weren’t able to accommodate the amount of kids who wanted to play,” he said. “As the interest increased, we simply didn’t have the resources. The ARC now will not only accommodate the needs of the basketball program, but other programs as we continue to grow.”

Cronin and other school officials toured some of the best recreational facilities at schools in the Southeast and he said St. Andrew’s now has a facility that can be recognized as the best in the country.

“It sends a statement that St. Andrew’s is serious about the all-around experience of the student-athlete,” he said. “I think when we first started I was just hoping to get some extra courts, but they found a way to make it where everybody can benefit.”

Cyndi Hogue, dance team head coach, said the ARC is an amazing facility.

“We have different sports that are in the same season that all need a space to practice,” she said. “In the past we had to rotate those times or not practice as long as we wanted or needed.”

Hogue said they used to practice in the cafeteria or music room and so much time was spent rearranging furniture before and after practice.

“It is awesome for us to be able to go into a space built for athletics,” she said.

Currently, over 80 percent of middle school and high school students at St. Andrew’s participate in one of 17 sports. In the past, teams had to compete for space in one gymnasium.

Head of School George Penick added, “The addition of the Athletics and Recreation Center means that now St. Andrew’s will have the excellent facilities that it needs for its already excellent athletics program. We are very proud to have the best athletics facility of any secondary school in all of Mississippi, and of many colleges as well.”

The ARC was the final project in the first phase of a massive campaign undertaken by the school. Also in Phase 1 was the Early Childhood and Discovery Center that opened in 2016.

Two more stages remain, and officials say these will be donor-driven. The projects include a new fifth grade loft, expanded dining facilities, and construction of an Episcopal Chapel. The total cost for the remaining projects will be around $22.5 million.