Special Renovation Section
The renovation at Gulliver Preparatory School was mostly about upgrading its aging athletic facilities, but Athletic Director Mark Schusterman noticed it also instilled a new sense of pride in his student-athletes.Gulliver Prep, a private school in Miami, hopes to begin the second phase of a three-pronged renovation in 2014, continuing a lengthy project designed to improve the school’s athletic fields and other facilities. The first phase of the renovation, finished years ago, allowed the school to install turf, bleachers and renovate locker rooms that were close to 30 years old.
“We’ve grown a lot, but recently the facilities were getting a little run down,” Schusterman said. “Our goal is to use every inch of our land the best we can, because on this campus there is no room for growth facility-wise.”
Gulliver Prep has nearly 1,000 students in grades nine through 12, and Schusterman said athletic participation rate is around 60 percent. With 24 sports and a several other well-developed extracurricular programs, students have plenty of opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom.
But sports have become a valued part of education at Gulliver Prep, and its teams have succeeded at a high level. Schusterman said his school is one of two private institutions in Miami-Dade County that won a state football championship, and the school received the All Sports Award from the Miami Herald for having one of the best athletic programs for small schools.
It’s no secret that student-athletes already have a tremendous amount of pride in their school, but Schusterman said it became more apparent after the renovation’s first phase was completed. A large reason was new signage that included phrases and pictures to help motivate athletes. It sounds like a simple concept, but Schusterman insists the payoff has been well worth the investment.
“It’s made a tremendous difference, and for people who are having second thoughts about spending the money, it’s given kids incredible pride in our locker rooms,” he said.
“There’s a real respect in there, and it’s interesting. I really noticed it this fall.”
Big Signs supplied Gulliver Prep’s signage.
One of the reasons is the department-wide involvement. Schusterman was able to draw input from coaches on what types of motivational phrases or images they would like to see on the school’s walls. That inclusion allowed others to take ownership in the renovation and get excited about what the school was trying to accomplish.
“Get the community and others involved, and show them that by doing this you’re going to create pride in your school and facilities,” Schusterman said. “If you had problems in the past with things getting torn up in your locker room, you’re going to see a difference.”
Like any high school renovation, the project at Gulliver Prep came with its own set of challenges. Schusterman has been at the school for 30 years, and he had never undertaken any renovation of this magnitude. However, the school’s advancement director had a role in similar projects, so the two formed a partnership that would help them navigate potential challenges.
Florida’s tropical climate can create headaches for athletic administrators. The damp environment meant Schusterman had to use heavy-duty plastic instead of steel in the locker rooms.
Torrential rains can muddy fields and risk players safety, so in many cases schools choose to install artificial turf with state-of-the-art drainage systems. Desso supplied the turf, while the school purchased its bleachers from Gulf Stream Sports Group.
“When you put in a turf field, the most important thing is that the drainage system gives you longevity from the wear and tear,” Schusterman said. “We had some of the worst rains this fall, and the field was clear 30 minutes after it was over.”
Gulliver Prep’s pool is only about 30 feet from the football field, so the project leaders also have to make sure runoff from the field doesn’t create problems for swimmers. Schusterman wants to build a new football field for one of the lower schools, but that project is years from happening.
Schusterman calls himself the luckiest athletic director in America, and a lot of that has to do with the support he’s received from those inside and outside of the school. Projects of this magnitude can be a financial struggle, but Gulliver Prep was able to make it happen with a combination of donor and school funding.
The school has an annual golf tournament that pulls in more than $60,000. Along with other contributions from families and alumni, Gulliver Prep is able to make its dreams a reality.
“We are very fortunate that we have successful people who are more than willing to jump in and support our programs,” Schusterman said. “It’s through their efforts that we’re able to be as successful as we are.”
Our Special Renovation Section is sponsored by Big Signs.