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Harrison County unveils design for new gym

Harrison County High School's new gymnasium

Harrison County unveiled renderings of their new gymnasium on Tuesday. The gym is expected to seat over 3,500 fans. The gym will accompany the new high school and area technology center expected to open for classes in fall of 2026.

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With the building of a new basketball arena, Harrison County is expected to join Mason County, Montgomery County, and George Rogers Clark as hosts for the 10th Region Boys Basketball Tournament. The current gym has hosted regional tournaments for volleyball and girls basketball, which have less requirements for seating capacity.

“We wanted to make sure we built a facility that is capable of hosting whatever we need to host, and that includes the regional tournament,” said Harrison County Schools superintendent Harry Burchett. More from Dr. Burchett later in this article.

View from the second level

The gym includes men’s and women’s restrooms on both the main and upper level. It also includes several offices for coaches, officials, and an athletic trainer. There are four large locker rooms with an adjoining laundry facility and office. The gym will also have high resolution video and score boards. The upper level walkway opposite the baseline seating will be reserved for media and other guests.

View from the floor level

In true Harrison County fashion, the gym is designed in horseshoe; the Thorobreds and Fillies will be able to split the gym in to two full-size courts with a dividing curtain. The greater floor space also allows for more wrestling mats which means they can host wrestling regionals. The top bleachers are retractable, allowing for multiple practices to occur at the same time; something that currently cannot be done. There will also be a continuous walking path on the upper level. The new campus will have hundreds of parking spaces at the main front entrance and even more parking behind the school.

The main entrance of the new school and gym

Harrison County’s current school and gymnasium opened in the fall of 1950. Before then, the 10th Region Boys Basketball Tournament had traditionally been held at Paris High School. When Harrison County opened their new gym, it held the tournament all but one time from 1951 to 1964.

1955 Region Tournament at Harrison County.
Notice the shortened court and fan seating on the baseline.

The Mason County Fieldhouse opened in 1965 and hosted the tournament all but once in a 43-year span until 2007. That once was in 1969 with the opening of the now old George Rogers Clark gym which proved to be too small at the time. GRC of course now has a newer facility that hosted in 2020.

Northern Kentucky University hosted in 2009 at their new arena and Holmes High School hosted in 2022. Montgomery County’s new arena, which is similar in design to Harrison County’s new gym, has hosted three times in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

The main concourse area outside the gym

Region Tournament sites are selected by each district. For boys basketball, the 37th District has chosen NKU, Mason County, and Holmes in the past. The 38th District does not have a gym big enough in their district and have always deferred to Mason County. The 39th District chooses its own Mason County as well. The 40th District chose Montgomery County three times, but with GRC’s new gym, MoCo and GRC will alternate every eight years.

In the current format, it appears the 38th District will choose Harrison County to host the 2027 Region Tournament four seasons from now. It also means Mason County may only host the tournament every four years depending on the location the 37th District chooses.

Cynthiana, KY will boast a modern facility in a central location in the region. 10th Region Tournament draws are currently hosted at Harrison County because of its geography and ease of access.

Graphic showing the location of all the 10th Region schools [@10thRegionBall]

Long-term plans include a renovated baseball field, new softball field, numerous practice fields, bass fishing pond, and synthetic turf football field. The turf will allow for band competitions and can be used by all athletic teams for practice and games without worry of tearing up the grass. The school is being built behind their new athletic complex and fieldhouse which was completed in 2015.

The synthetic turf football field with the parking lot in front of the school.

The design process is being led by Summit Architects & Engineers out of Lexington, KY. The new high school is part of a larger plan called “Hilltop Harrison”, where all four elementary schools will consolidate into the current middle school. The middle school will move into the current high school. The plan also calls for extensive renovations to remaining facilities. All schools will then be on the “Hilltop” together on one campus. With added traffic, the school district has partnered with the Kentucky Department of Transportation to add two new roads from Old Lair and New Lair Road along with a roundabout. There are also plans for several added parking spots and a new bus garage. You can view live progress of the construction and see an interactive 3D rendering on the schools website.

Master plan

Superintendent Dr. Harry Burchett talked with about the opportunities this will provide students and the reasoning behind the Hilltop Harrison idea.

“Looking at that data, we noticed that Northside, Southside, Eastside, and Westside Elementaries had the significant unmet need in the schools to bring them up to current code.”

That “unmet need” is the required renovations to bring the schools up to modern standards, which was estimated to be around $35 million. The Harrison County Board of Education agreed it only made sense to put that money towards a new high school facility, instead of maintaining four schools built in the 1960s.

Other reasons for consolidating the four schools, Dr. Burchett says, is equity.

“It’s very common to have a class size at one school that may be, for example, in second grade, 25 in a classroom and another school might have 16.  So when we’re together as one, we can evenly distribute the class size across the grade levels.”

Staffing four elementary schools is also difficult. Each schools has their own principal but share several staff members as well. They need their own cafeteria staff, maintenance staff, PE teacher, media center/librarian, art teacher, band director, school resource officer, etc. The schools share several staff that spend their time rotating between schools.

“Anybody we share, they’re traveling, they’re rotating, and that’s lost instructional time and that’s lost time with students.”

Combining facilities and staffing resources will save the district about $1.5 million annually. These savings, the superintendent says, can be reinvested back into the students.

While some healthy competition between schools is good, in the end, they are all part of one Harrison County community.

“They’re all competing with each other.  That’s good to have competition.  Years ago, competition within counties was a good thing, but we’re competing on a world level now.  We’re not trying to compete with Kentucky, we’re trying to compete with the rest of the world.  We have to set our sights on something that’s higher than competition amongst our own schools and our own people,” says Dr. Burchett, “because we are Cynthiana and Harrison County; and we’re one.”

Harrison County currently has 22 different career pathways for students between the high school and area technology center. Those pathways will only grow with a facility that has the infrastructure and design specifically geared towards certain courses. For example, the new culinary classroom will feature a stainless steel industrial kitchen and refrigeration equipment. When the high school was built in 1950, it didn’t have necessary features for today’s computer science or engineering lab.

Dr. Burchett says, “The design and construction of our new high school and CTE spaces will help provide our students with the same opportunities afforded students in many other parts of the country.  We already have amazing programs and highly skilled instructors. By providing learning spaces aligned with our specific programmatic and pathway offerings our students will have everything necessary to experience deeper learning activities and grow from learners into leaders.”

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