Leveling the playing field

Calvert Hall: The Catholic boys' school has a tradition of athletic excellence. A project aims to ensure that facilities match that tradition.

June 29, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Accolades to athletes line the corridors at Calvert Hall College. Photos of buff boys in gym shorts and tank tops smile down at visitors.

Team sports are big here, always have been. But a long-awaited $5 million project to build a football stadium, track, baseball diamond, practice fields and four tennis courts could add new luster to Calvert Hall's athletic program, said Brother Kevin Patrick Strong, president of the Roman Catholic high school in Towson.

"We have a history of being very strong competitors," said Strong, who presided over a ground-breaking ceremony in January. "There is a generation of graduates who participated in athletics and who want to make sure the program keeps up in the 21st century. They want students to have the best opportunity of education at all levels, and athletics is important."

The stadium project -- the biggest addition to the school's LaSalle Road campus since a fine-arts center was built in the 1980s -- could give Calvert Hall a leg up in the competitive world of private schools, where business is booming thanks to a strong economy and concern by some parents about the quality of education at public schools.

Cashing in on the good times, Baltimore's Gilman School opened a $5 million lower school last year. McDonogh School in Owings Mills added a $6 million performing arts center.

Calvert Hall won't be left behind.

"The new stadium will bring us up to the level of other schools like the Gilmans and the McDonoghs," said Calvert Hall senior Tim Briggs, 17.

Calvert Hall's history -- on the field and in the classroom -- goes back to 1845, when a group of Catholic priests founded the boys' school at Mulberry and Cathedral streets in Baltimore. The school moved to LaSalle Road in 1960. Today, 1,100 boys attend the school, which charges an annual tuition of $6,500.

At the work site recently, crews with Mullan Contracting Co. of Lutherville were adding red brick to the concrete stadium's facade. The sod on the football field was growing thick and green in preparation for the Cardinals' first home game Sept. 4 against the John Carroll School of Bel Air.

The design and construction team includes several Calvert Hall graduates, among them employees of Mullan Contracting. Baltimore architect David H. Gleason, Class of 1963, created a 3,000-seat stadium that incorporates a media tower, concessions stand and coaches' offices. "It's their alma mater; they want it to look nice," said Strong.

The stadium, which will be decorated with bay windows and accents of hunter green -- not cardinal and gold, the school's colors -- could give the Christian Brothers' campus a new reason to boast.

"I think it will be a real plus for the school," said Gleason, who wedged three locker rooms, a weight room and public restrooms under the stadium's seats. "The stadium really helps to create a new focus along Goucher Boulevard and Putty Hill Avenue. It will give the school a nice image. It will be a landmark. People will say, `Oh, that's Calvert Hall Stadium.' "

Students -- who have sold about $100,000 worth of magazine subscriptions to help raise money for the project -- are eager to see the new stadium finished, said Briggs, who is pleased that he and his teammates will have their own track to use for practice and home meets.

"We always thought it was funny that we didn't have a track, even though we've won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championships the past two years," Briggs said. "We had to do our intervals at Loch Raven High School. We never had a home meet."

Calvert Hall was in desperate need of a new baseball diamond, said Vince Bagli, a retired WBAL-TV sports commentator who attended Loyola Blakefield, another Catholic boys' school in Towson and Calvert Hall's rival. The old baseball field was so sloped it impeded play.

"They have a great baseball program, but to have that crummy of a field, unless your right fielder was 6 foot 7 inches, he couldn't see the home plate," Bagli said.

As construction continues, so does the school's fund-raising drive, complete with brochures that encourage alumni to buy engraved bricks at $100 each. Bigger donations of $50,000 or $250,000 will buy naming rights to Calvert Hall's new tennis courts or track. The stadium will be named after the individual who donates $1 million, Strong said.

A $5 million loan from First National Bank of Maryland will be paid off over several years, he said.

Calvert Hall's remodeling will create 158 new parking spaces, said Strong. In the past, with 146 slots, some students were forced to use nearby streets, which upset some neighbors.

Bob F. Bindel, 64, who lives on LaSalle Road, complained to Calvert Hall officials several times when students parked in front of his house. But Bindel, a member of Calvert Hall's Class of 1953, didn't lose his cool. He's more excited about the stadium.

"Calvert Hall always does things in a big way," he said. "I'm sure this will be a prestige thing for the boys. They will love to show it off."

Pub Date: 6/29/99

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