Academy to replace gym


FRYEBURG – Fryeburg Academy is trying to raise at least $6 million to build a new gym by January to replace one destroyed by fire last fall.

“We need a gym by next year,” Development Director Tim Scott said Wednesday. “The boarding students would really like those facilities available, and if we don’t have them, we could suffer with the boarding population next year.”

Two men have been charged with setting the former gym on fire to cover up a burglary of office supplies and sports equipment, prosecutors have said.

Philip Thibault pleaded guilty to a federal charge of arson and will be sentenced May 10 at the U.S. District Court in Portland. He graduated from Fryeburg Academy in 2003. Maxx Noble will have a jury trial in June. Noble attended the school for 15 weeks in 2002.

The new facility will cost $10 million and be built at the site of the ruined Harvey Dow Gibson Recreation Center on the Fryeburg Academy campus. The academy has collected about $2 million in insurance on the old gym, another $2 million from trustees, and will launch a fundraising campaign for the rest of the money.

As the money comes in, the school will go ahead with construction. “We have put some financing together to take care of getting the building built,” Scott said. “We can’t wait.”

Scott said the academy will break ground for the gym after it receives some state permits, which he anticipated getting in early May.

On Monday, the town granted the school a variance to build the facility, which will be taller than allowed by town ordinance.

Students have been using a makeshift livestock building at the Fryeburg fairgrounds for their indoor training space, playing on an athletic floor rented from the University of New Hampshire for $6,000. But they have had to play their games away.

The gym, which has no name yet, will be 45,000 square feet and include a field house with three basketball courts, seating for 750 spectators, a two-story building with locker rooms, a concession stand, offices, a wrestling room and a fitness room. A rubberized track will circle the courts.

“The old gym was 50 years old, with a single court,” Scott said. “The locker rooms were very rudimentary. This will triple the indoor athletic space for practices and games, and it will also provide the other ancillary facility of locker rooms and training rooms that make us even with the schools we play with.”

The academy also wants to construct a theater next to the gym for an additional $3 million. But first it will finish the gym, which will include a temporary theater in one of the basketball courts.

“We can’t build all at once,” Scott said. “We’ll use the third court as a theater. But we won’t stop, we’ll do it in two phases. It is going to be one long campaign.”