Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gloucester Catholic teams will soon have a place to call home

Gloucester Catholic teams will soon have a place to call home

Gloucester Catholic High School athletic director Pat Murphy calls the members of his outdoor teams "road warriors."
The Rams play varsity "home" games at 10 sites. For football, there's the stadium at crosstown rival Gloucester City High. A field behind West Deptford's Little League facility is where you'll find the boys' lacrosse games. And the girls' soccer team travels nearly 20 miles to a complex on the south end of Glassboro.
But the 85-year-old school might finally have an athletic home of its own.
Gloucester Catholic's Proposed Athletic Complex
Gloucester Catholic officials on Wednesday confirmed plans to build an athletic campus on 75 acres in Deptford.
What could come later to the location would have even greater impact: the first new Catholic high school in the Diocese of Camden in more than 45 years, and the first ever in Gloucester County.
"This is our future," principal John Colman said of the sports facility.
The athletic campus, to be built in three phases over three to five years, is to include 11 fields, including a state-of-the-art stadium, and a clubhouse with locker rooms, restrooms, and a kitchen/concession area.
The site, traversed by Blackwood-Barnsboro Road and adjacent to Gloucester County College, is large enough to accommodate a high school.
An artist's rendering of the facility includes an open space - the possible home of a new Gloucester Catholic, according to school and diocese officials.
The school is a down-the-road project given the difficult economic climate, stressed Colman and Larry Reader, executive director of temporal services for the diocese.
But Colman said the athletic campus would enable Gloucester Catholic to "get a footprint" in Gloucester County that could lead to more serious consideration of a Catholic high school in one of the state's fastest-growing areas.
About two-thirds of the school's roughly 650 students travel to Camden County from Gloucester County, Colman said.
Bishop Joseph A. Galante is "very supportive" of building a secondary school in Gloucester County, Reader said. The last new high school to open in the diocese was Paul VI in Haddon Township in 1965.
"We need a Catholic high school in Gloucester County," Reader said. "Whether it's this site or not, we're not there yet."
In spring 2008, the diocese announced plans to build a secondary school off Route 77 in Mullica Hill, but scuttled them the next year because of the economic downturn.
The athletic-field project needs final approval from the Deptford planning board, which will meet July 6. But Mayor Paul Medany said township officials supported the plan.
"This is a good thing for Deptford," he said.
Though "traffic is an issue with anything that's built in Deptford," Medany said the site's most frequent use would be in off-hours.
"The athletic fields should lay dormant during the day when the kids are in school," he said. "Later in the day and at night, traffic isn't as much of an issue."
Plans call for illuminated baseball and softball fields and a stadium with lights and artificial turf for football and some soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey games.
     "The big thing for us is the sense of community we hope to create by having a central place of our own," Murphy said. "For as long as we've been playing sports, we've never had our own fields. We've never had a true home-field advantage."
The diocese owns the site and is granting use of the land, but will not provide money to build the athletic campus, Reader said.
"This is all on us," Colman said of the financial burden.
A study by an outside firm indicated that the school should be able to finance the project through a capital campaign, he said.
The project is expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million, though school officials hope to keep costs down through donated materials and services from parents and alumni.
The "best-case scenario" has the school beginning the first phase - two practice football fields and three fields for soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey - in late August with a goal toward using the facilities in fall 2012, Murphy said.
Phase two would include the baseball and softball fields and the clubhouse.
Phase three would be the stadium, which could cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, Colman said.

Contact Inquirer staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,,

Note: The Gloucester Catholic Boys Baseball and Girls Softball Teams both won their second consecutive New Jersey State Championships on June 11.

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