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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

John Paul II eager to unveil new complex

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Sean Murphy, athletics director at John Paul II Catholic High School, gives a tour of the new athletics complex on Aug. 9, 2019.

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The air around John Paul II Catholic High School is one of eager anticipation as construction on the school’s new athletics facilities is nearly complete.

The complex will officially open Aug. 29, when JP2 hosts its first football game in school history against Wilson Community Christian.

“There is a sense of relief to see it all come together,” athletics director Sean Murphy said. “It’s finally here and you can see it firsthand. Our students, our players, our alumni, our donors, everyone is pumped up for the new complex. We really believe that it will be if not the best, one of the best high school athletic facilities in eastern North Carolina.”

It has been 16 months since the John Paul II Saints broke ground on their facilities in May of 2018. The area now houses a new gymnasium, baseball and softball fields, along with a brand-new turf football field.

Each of the fields has its own press box and bleachers.

Still to be added is a field house for outdoor sports such as baseball, football, softball, hockey and golf, sand volleyball courts and a practice field for the school’s new eight-man football team. The field house is expected to be the last piece of construction on the property, scheduled for a Jan. 1, 2020 completion.

In all, Murphy estimated the total cost to be around $12 million. He added that the school also spent $500,000 to equip the new programs.

“We were so lucky to have some generous donors come out and really fall in love with our school and help us,” he said.

The new gymnasium is a two-story structure, which is equipped with hardwood floors, a weight room for athletes, recovery room for the school’s athletic trainers, who operate under Young’s Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, offices for coaches, a concession stand and a new sound system. Murphy said the last piece to be added to the building is signage, and that should be placed inside soon.

“The capacity sitting inside the gym is around 600 people,” Murphy said. “With those who can come in here and stand, it is more like 750 people.”

Unique to the structure is an open multipurpose area on the second floor. Murphy said the second floor could be used for hosting alumni and donor events, a warmup area for basketball teams about to take to the court, a place for wrestling practice should the school decide to add the sport and more.

Nearby is the new turf football field, which sits nearly half a story higher than the houses in a nearby community.

“We brought in nearly 8,000 dump trucks with dirt to raise the area for the field,” Murphy said. “That helps with drainage, which is placed under the turf. The best part is there will be almost no maintenance for the field and we can use these pieces of turf for nearly 10 years before we have to think about replacing them.”

Murphy hopes this athletics area will attract more students and student-athletes to consider enrolling at John Paul II.

“Sports-wise, sometimes people look at our school because it provides them an opportunity to play sooner,” he said. “You may be buried behind an upperclassman at another school and want to play. We don’t have many junior varsity programs here, so it gives them a four-year varsity experience. We’re small enough to where we expect our athletes to play multiple sports, we really encourage it.

“We tell them that they only have one shot at high school, so they should really do as much as they can. If they hope to play in college, I know that colleges really like multi-sport athletes, so it helps in that regard.”

The facilities also can prove valuable for students who don’t participate in athletics, as the school will live stream all of its sporting events. Students will run the show, taking control in shooting the event, production, editing, announcing and statistics.

“It’s going to be a great way for those students who are interested in journalism, or sports information, to get out there and really learn those skills,” Murphy said.

Teams will be walking on to their fields and courts with brand-new equipment, including football players wearing customized Vicis helmets. Murphy, who also is the school’s head football coach, is proud of the fact that his players will have some of the best equipment available.

“These helmets are custom fitted to each player,” he said. “Vicis came out and fit every player on our roster. They will all have unique padding in their helmets that best fits them. I asked the guys what they thought and they said they loved it. Vicis is rated by the NFL as the safest brand of helmets.”

When the season is over, Murphy explained that the padding can be easily removed and Vicis will return to fit the helmet for another player.

The facility is already paying dividends, as Murphy said enrollment in the school has nearly doubled since construction began. He added that though the student body has grown, JP2 still holds a close atmosphere.

Murphy’s pitch to fans who may be interested in coming out to see a JP2 event this season is based around the atmosphere.

“If you want to come out to a great atmosphere, a little bit of a throwback, this will be the place to be,” Murphy said. “You’ll see families, student sections, exciting and high-scoring games that are safe. This is the place to consider coming out to watch. I think when people come out and see what we’re all about, they’ll be impressed with what they see.”

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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