Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
FORT LAUDERDALE | St. Anthony School third grader Madison Murray, 8, said she loves the new covered walkways at her school.
“We had to run between buildings when it rained,” she said. “Now we don’t have to get wet on our way to another building.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski blessed the new covered walkways which feature new pavers and landscaping. He also blessed a new administration building, which includes a conference room, and a renovated gymnasium.
Many of St. Anthony School’s 470 students, faculty and staff gathered in the gym and along the walkways for the Jan. 25 dedication ceremony.
Father Michael Grady, St. Anthony’s pastor, said the $1.3 million cost to renovate the school campus has enhanced the school both for academics and athletics.
“We strive to build the kingdom of God right here in Victoria Park,” he said. “The renovations were much needed.”
St. Anthony Church, the oldest Catholic church in Broward County, was dedicated in 1921, when Fort Lauderdale had about 2,000 residents and 65 Catholic families lived in the area.
St. Anthony School opened in 1926 with 64 students in grades one through 11; a 12th grade was added later. The four Adrian Dominican nuns who served as teachers lived above the classrooms on the second floor of the school until a convent was built in 1938. Throughout the years, new school buildings were added including a gymnasium in 1940.
A new, bigger church was dedicated in 1948 to accommodate the growing population. In the 1980s, when the religious left and the faculty became all lay, the convent was transformed into classrooms. It was completely renovated in 2005 and renamed the Rose Miniaci Fine Arts Center after her generous donation.
Until the recent gym renovation, the school’s basketball teams played in a space cooled by fans.
“Players would rather play outside during the hot weather months,” said Gary McQuilken, St. Anthony School’s athletic director. “When it was 90 degrees outside, it was 100 degrees inside. Spectators would stand in the open doorways to get the breeze. The four fans on the wall and two big exhaust fans didn’t really do the job of cooling down the gym. The exhaust fans drew in the humidity and made the floors slippery.”
The gym is now air conditioned, and its floors also were refinished.
“The dark maple colored wood was stripped down to its natural light color and then it was clear-coated,” McQuilken said. “It makes the gym look twice as big. There’s nothing like playing basketball on a wood floor.”
McQuilken said he plans to hang banners around the gym acknowledging the St. Anthony School Hurricanes’ undefeated sports teams in the All Broward Catholic Conference, which includes elementary and middle schools.
“So far, we have nine girl’s banners and eight boy’s banners,” he said. “The air-conditioned gym has changed the whole school environment and we are also using it for other school activities. The kids love the gym. The other day students came into the gym for physical education because the recent rains have left the fields too wet to play on.”
“In the evening, parish men use the gym to play basketball pick-up games,” McQuilken added.
St. Anthony School included high school until 1952 when Central Catholic High School opened. (It was renamed St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 1961.)
Dennis Terrill, 73, stopped by to see the gym renovations. The St. Anthony alumnus played basketball at the school and later at Central Catholic. His team included former NFL player Brian Piccolo.
“I never thought I’d see the gym looking so good and air-conditioned in my lifetime,” Terrill said.