San Benito improving facilities, adding program

Construction is nearly complete on San Benito's indoor multipurpose athletic facility, shown Friday, being built next to Bobby Morrow Stadium. The facility will have a 90-yard synthetic turf field and a 10,000 square foot weight room with features to benefit a variety of sports and other extracurricular programs. By Claire Cruz/Valley Morning Star

San Benito CISD is living up to its motto with the addition of an indoor multipurpose athletic facility, an aquatic center and a performing arts center — three “Gold Standard” facilities that will enrich the education experience for current and future Greyhounds.

The school board passed a bond in Nov. 2018 after a bond committee, consisting of district administrators and community members, recommended the three projects following a means assessment. Brighton Group, LLC, was the project management firm selected to manage the bond program and oversee construction.

“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve seen San Benito CISD grow in all aspects the last few years, and we’ve kind of outgrown our facilities,” Greyhounds athletic director and football coach Dan Gomez said. “The decision-makers within our district, the board and our superintendent, have done an excellent job of giving the kids the things they need in order to have a great school experience.”

Vertical construction got started in January with the indoor multipurpose athletic facility located on the high school campus next to Bobby Morrow Stadium. Joseph Palacios, principal managing partner for Brighton Group, LLC, said it’s only the second, and the largest, of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley.

The indoor multipurpose athletic facility is expected to be “substantially completed” in November. It will have a 90-yard synthetic turf field with markings for football and soccer, and batting cages that come down from the roof for baseball and softball use. Also, the facility will house the sports medicine program.

“That facility is going to serve its purpose in all different types of ways for the school district,” Gomez said. “The field helps with practices from football to soccer, baseball, softball and it’s there for the band use as well so they can practice the marching aspect of their program. It’s also going to have a weight room.”

The weight room is going to be 10,000 square feet with compression flooring, which Palacios said is significantly larger than the average 7,000 square foot high school weight room and is on par with college facilities.

Over by the Freddy Fender water tower, the first phase of construction is underway on the property that will house the aquatic center and performing arts center. The aquatic center is designed for competitive swimming and will have a diving well. There will be a warmup pool, which is shallower than the competition pool, that will be used to teach younger students how to swim.

Palacios said bids have come in for the next phase and construction will begin on “the access road that will lead to the two facilities, the building pad site, all site utilities … in the next 30-60 days.”

Vertical building will start in November, and the aquatic center is expected to be completed during an 18-month period from that start. San Benito is looking to have a swimming and diving team competing in the 2022-23 school year.

“Our city doesn’t even have an operable swimming pool, so the fact that we’ll be able to have an aquatic center where we can take some elementary students for swimming lessons and then have swim teams, dive teams, we think it’ll be a great experience for our kids. It’s going to be very exciting,” superintendent Dr. Nate Carman said.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause any delays in construction, but Hurricane Hanna and excessive rain did slow things down a bit by making the ground too wet to work. Palacios said COVID-19 did present some problems on the manufacturing side of things because of factories shutting down. But with manufacturers back open, a silver lining has presented itself.

“Now, a lot of companies are very eager to get back to work… and that has allowed for more contractors to be available for bidding. We had more bidders than anticipated and we had great, competitive pricing, so actually bids are coming in slightly lower than what was anticipated,” Palacios said. “Everything’s within budget or under budget, which (we and the district) are happy about because you don’t usually see it in the construction world.”

Carman said the new facilities will “give back all those days of missed practices to so many organizations” due to inclement weather and the draining Texas summer heat, and give many new opportunities to the youth of San Benito.

“We’re excited for the opportunities (these facilities are) going to give future generations of San Benito students. They’ve never had anything like this in the past,” Carman said. “They’re going to be high quality, wonderful venues for our students to be able to display their great talents in.”