Breaking ground and rebuilding it: the Goppert renovation takes shape

A project three years in the making is well underway on the North end of campus, as the old gym is being completely renovated to include classrooms, labs, and advanced sports facilities.


A construction worker walks across the former entrance of Goppert Sep. 11. The building is set to be finished in April. photo by Meghan Baker

by Gabby Staker, Design Editor

The clank of a hammer reverberates through the Quad. Saws whine. There’s a blue construction fence around the Goppert Center. If you look through the mesh, there’s a giant hole where the foundation for the gym’s renovation and expansion is being laid.

J.E. Dunn Construction Company broke ground May 16 and has had crews of over 20 men and women on site ever since, according to superintendent Ryan Perkins. The official end date of the project is April 26, 2018, but the team has lost a few days from the recent heavy rainfall and flooding.

Each department had pitched ideas for an environment that would enrich their curriculums. Math teachers said they needed a lab for data analysis. Journalism wanted a collaborative space for writing and design. Campus ministry needed a veritable meeting space. The athletic department wanted a new workout facility and locker rooms.

STA president Nan Bone, administration and teachers had been discussing these plans for over three years prior to the ceremony.

“The renovation was not a random thought,” Bone said. “How do we become that great school, and why are we educating women to be able to make a contribution to the world? It’s through thoughtful planning for over 150 years. This is just another phase of that.”

Working with the architects, Bone and her team asked that the new face of Goppert reflect that of the Windmoor Building, modeling the symmetry that Donnelly and M&A already bring to the Quad. Goppert will be the same height as Windmoor with the same long windows.

There was talk of launching a smaller campaign to just finish the upper level of Goppert and wait to renovate the athletic offices and lockers below, but for the sake of the donors’ wishes, they decided to “take the big dive.”

It’s a $15 million dollar campaign, and after raising money for about a year, Bone says they’ve raised over $9 million. They gave J.E. Dunn the go-ahead to start building. However, that presented some issues as donors thought they had raised the full amount.

“In reality, it took probably 6 months of going back over the plans,” Bone said.

Initially, they were trying to decide whether those plans should combine both academic and athletic interests in a building that has historically been only for athletics. They brought their problems to the architect who told them they could do both.

STA athletic trainer Lisa Gross was one of those who pushed for both.

When the topic came up, Gross took an old rendering of the annex floor plan and drew in tables and whirlpools- a training room, truly of her own creation. Administration and the architectural team were responsive.

“It was a very big deal, in the way that I kind of got offered a blank slate, and I drew- literally drew- everything in,” Gross said. “They could have said no, but instead the need for this was proven enough that they said yes.”

A visible progress is not yet easily gleaned, but from the upper floors of Donnelly Hall, you can see the men and women in blue hard hats working deep below. The inner workings are nearly complete, and this month, cranes will be built to hoist up the steel beams.

“That’s when our building is really going to start to take shape and they’ll be a lot of big, noticeable changes happening,” Perkins said.

The upstairs level of Goppert will include

  • A college library, where students can check out private study rooms or work silently, much like the concept of the Math Hub
  • Three new high-tech classrooms: a math classroom for analyzing data, Mr. Lewis’ journalism room and a theology classroom
  • A massive space for Campus Ministry, with a wall of windows looking into the quad so an LED cross on the back wall will always be visible
  • A wide-open gathering space to be used for events
  • A college-style Star Shop
  • A concession stand overlooking the gym
  • A space for the IT department and the help desk
  • An outdoor classroom
  • New student and faculty restrooms

The gym level will feature

  • A makerspace for robotics and design
  • Teaching areas for coding and mapping
  • Two offices for athletic director Mark Hough and assistant athletic director Ty Abney.
  • Gross’ training room
  • Weight room
  • Existing gym floor and bleachers
  • New locker rooms for athletes