The Gryphons now have a home of their own.
After two years in the planning and construction, Palisades Episcopal School opened the Kathryn and Peter Browning Recreation Center on March 28. An official grand opening is set for April 11.
The $1.5 million gymnasium will be home to indoor sports teams, while providing a stage for large and small gatherings.
The namesake Peter Browning was a founding trustee, working in the past decade to grow the school. His son, also Peter Browning, teaches there.
“He’s always been very involved in education,” the younger Browning said. “Especially for him, it means a tremendous amount. This is his way to be a part of it forever.”
Palisades Episcopal has 172 students from junior kindergarten to eighth grade. More than 90 percent of middle school students play school sports, many playing multiple sports. They compete against schools of similar size and orientation from Rock Hill to Concord, N.C.
The school has cross country, volleyball, basketball, golf, tennis and flag football. Since beginning sports five years ago, home games involved traveling to The Pointe in Fort Mill. Practice and competitions meant finding space through Steele Creek Athletic Association, River Hills Community Church and elsewhere.
“It was really just getting in where we could get in,” said Rusty Menchaca, Palisades athletic director.
Along with new outdoor field space, more practices and competitions can be held at the school. For the roughly 30 percent of families who live in The Palisades, new facilities mean never having to leave their neighborhood for home games.
“A lot more practice time instead of driving time,” Menchaca said.
Kerin Hughes, head of school, says the new space will benefit more than sports.
“This gym is instrumental in our school spirit,” she said.
A stage will allow the annual spring play – 80 percent of the student body participates – to be held at school. Summer camps are planned. State-of-the-art projection means the school can have all its students, staff and families together in one place should it want a meeting or social gathering.
“It’s been a dream for us,” Hughes said. “When we first opened the doors, it was part of the plan.”
The school has been around a decade. It sits on nine acres, and has a future phase to replace mobile classrooms with something similar to the main building. Four students remain from the first year the school opened. They will graduate this year.
The school is planning small events for students, alumni and supporters along with the larger grand opening. Basketball teams will gather one night to play coaches and other teams. Then, knowing the need for space the past several years, the school will rent out its new facility for community events.
“We want this center to be part of the community,” Hughes said.
John Marks: 803-831-8166