Academies building projects bring major changes, top-notch facilities

It's been hard for Culverites to miss signs of some of the major construction projects underway at Culver Academies lately, many of which represent significant changes and enhancements not only to the campus, but in a broader sense, to the entire community.
For months now, work has been underway on Academy Road towards finalization of the Rosemary Berkel Crisp and Harry L. Crisp II (CMA 1953) Center for the Visual Arts, which will not only relocate the school's visual arts program to its academic quadrangle (in the refitted Eppley Hall of Science building), but will provide a prime venue for the Academies to exhibit its storied art collection.
The new Center, which will expand the visual arts program's classrooms from three to seven, according to fine arts Master Instructor Bob Nowalk, is slated to open in October. An in-depth look at the renovation and its offerings for both Academies students and the community at large is in the works for publication in the Culver Citizen in the near future.
Another obvious recent area of fervent construction work is just south of the intersection of State Roads 10 and 117, where the longstanding "crew shed" -- storage facility for much of the equipment used in Culver's successful rowing program -- has already been razed and framing begun for the school's lavish new White-DeVries Rowing Center, which is expected to be closed in before the snow flies this winter.
Crew has been an important competitive sport at Culver Academies even back into the 1920s, though the program has developed into an athletic success story for the school in recent decades. It makes sense, then, that an up-to-date, top-notch facility will house the program when work is completed on the brick and glass exteriored Center.
An alumni lounge and balcony will provide a beautiful view of Lake Maxinkuckee and crew competitions as they take place. A free weights and exercise room will house at least 16 ergometers among other fitness equipment for the crew program.
Perhaps most impressive is the building’s planned indoor rowing tank room, which will provide team members the ability to train "on the water," indoors and out of the elements during even the worst weather. Two rowing areas will accommodate eight port and eight starboard rowers, and the tank will employ technology to move the water at high speeds and approximate boat movements to simulate the outdoor rowing experience. Such tanks have become more and more common at east coast and other prep schools and universities where crew programs are at the fore, and are sure to enhance Culver's program immensely.
According to Academies Director of Facilities Jeff Kutch, P.E., the new facility will be of the same caliber as the brand-new Olympic training facility in Oklahoma City. Culver's rowing center is hoped to be open for use by August, 2012, for that fall's rowing season.
Another project in the works is creation of an indoor tennis facility to enhance the existing, recently-completed outdoor Gable Tennis Center behind the athletic fields north of State Road 10 (and just west of the bird sanctuary).
Five heated, all-weather courts will be available once the structure is completed, to add to the 15 outdoor courts created at the site in 2009. That’s when the previous courts at State Roads 10 and 117 were converted to equestrian paddocks as part of the massive renovation of the school's Jud Little Riding Hall and new Robbie Vaughn Stable.
While less visible from streetside, analysis has taken place towards important work at one of the school's most stately and celebrated buildings as well. The Memorial Chapel's planned work will address moisture problems in time for this, the 60th year since its dedication. According to the school's Facilities department, moisture passing through the building envelope is being addressed by way of masonry restoration and re-roofing. Condensation forming on interior surfaces is another moisture-related concern attended to through mechanical systems and technology, since the chapel's architecture prevents an increase of the thermal values of the walls and roof of the structure.
Another recent project under the Facilities umbrella isn't a building at all, but is no less important. It's the installation of outdoor, emergency, “blue light” call stations – of the sort employed at larger universities -- to the campus, the first one adjacent to one set of Culver Girls Academy dormitories. While Culver has proven itself an atmosphere generally quite safe, the call stations will add more peace of mind for students, parents, and faculty, especially for night-time travel to and from various areas of the campus.
Other projects, says Kutch, include retro-fitting of the school's former Officer's Club to be an employee medical clinic for the school. The building is slated to be complete by November 1, he notes, and the clinic is expected to open by January 1 and to act as an optional doctor's office for the faculty and staff of the school, which is the largest employer in Marshall County.
By next spring, Kutch says the department should be replacing the campus' dilapidated Woodcraft and Summer Camp piers with brand-new piers of a similar design to the "floating" pier put in use for Culver's Naval School a few years ago.
The Academies encompasses 1,800 acres of land and maintains nearly 100 major buildings on its winter grounds, which keeps its crew of over 120 full-time Facilities staff members, who work under the leadership of director Jeff Kutch, busy year-round.