Fulfilling a promise made two years ago when they kicked golden shovels into the ground at Huntington Middle School, donors and school officials returned Saturday to cut the red ribbon at an eagerly awaited sports facility.
The Barth Athletics Complex is here, completed and open in time for the start of the school year, which began Wednesday. The facility — which includes a full-size CIF-regulation gym, two media classrooms, a fitness room, boys’ and girls’ team rooms and a multipurpose room — is reported to have rung in at $15.94 million. That puts it more than $1 million under budget, according to figures announced earlier this year by the San Marino Unified School District.
The expansive two-story facility replaces a 1930s-era building originally labeled “playing room” on schematics, a building eventually repurposed into a gym that was so small that to play volleyball in class meant that a serve could only be made overhand and from the foyer. Coaches and gym teachers would eventually abandon what became known as the “no-purpose room” and conduct class or practice outside, at the mercy of the weather and air quality.
“Complaining about the gym facilities at Huntington Middle School became a community pastime,” school board President Lisa Link told the crowd Saturday. “The Barth Athletics Complex is not just an updated ‘playing room.’ As you will see when you tour the facilities, it is a state-of-the-art mixed-use facility that boasts almost 25,000 square feet of space.
“The entire middle school will be able to gather in one place and, as an extra bonus, it’s air-conditioned,” Link added, drawing laughter. “This is a solidly built facility that the district will be able to use for decades to come.”
Though such a facility had been in the imaginations of San Marino educators and parents for decades, money was usually an obstacle, Link explained; that changed several years ago when then-Superintendent Alex Cherniss and longtime San Marino resident and philanthropist Andy Barth — “two men known for getting things done,” Link noted — met to discuss the dream. An upfront $3.5 million donation from Barth and wife, Avery, crystallized the project, the design for which was approved by the school board in 2015.
More donations poured in. Tim and Lisa Sloan kicked in $500,000. The Barger family added another $250,000. Two families — those of Paul Su and Alice Wang, and Calvin Lo and Wendy Hsu — each donated $100,000. Aaron and Valerie Weiss donated $50,000, and added another $75,000 from proceeds from their annual San Marino Motor Classic, via donations made to Rotary Club of San Marino.
The Barths would later commit up to $2 million more to fund debt-service payments if the district is unable to pay off $6.5 million in borrowed funds by 2021. The district also used more than $4.5 million of its own capital fund and developer fees toward the project.
“The degree of support and cooperation and sense of community that that demonstrates is just wonderful,” Andy Barth, who also previously served on the school board, said Saturday.
Kathryn Barger, who attended HMS with Avery Barth long before ascending to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, praised the Barths for their leap of faith that united other community members behind them for the facility.
“Who would’ve thought, Avery, that we would be standing here today, recognizing an incredible, incredible facility?” Barger said Saturday. “It is really a little emotional for me because this is what giving back is all about.”
Other major donors who received thanks Saturday included the Havner Family Foundation, the William H. Hurt Foundation, the Fletcher Jones Foundation, the Rose Hills Foundation, the family of school board member C. Joseph Chang, the Chinese Club of San Marino, the Yu Hu family, Huiyong Shi, Iris Yang and Yuanzhi Zhang, the Simpson family, Yvonne and Raymond Chen, the Gertmenian family, Xiaoshu Liu and Xiaowen Gong, Tom and Mary Lee, and the San Marino Women’s Club.
Additionally, the district thanked the HMS PTA and the Anvekar, Buenabenta, Canon, Champon, Chapman and Park families for donations funding the gym’s scoreboard.
Link also extended gratitude to the residents living in the immediate area behind HMS for their patience throughout demolition of the old gym and construction of this facility.
“They endured two years of trucks driving by early in the morning before school started and they endured the construction noise throughout the day,” she said.