Tremont Elementary School's new gymnasium is expected to provide more than just an improved environment for physical education and after-school and recreation activities.

It also allots more cafeteria space at the school, which has an enrollment of more than 600 students.

Opening the new space on March 21 was the culmination of a busy past 18 months.

In October 2015, a multi-phased $6.8 million project was launched to add 10,800 square feet of space to the school and to upgrade classroom, office and building entrance space.

Included in that project was the construction of new, 6,500-square-foot gym so the old gym could be converted into cafeteria space to accommodate Tremont's growing enrollment, which district officials expect to reach 700 students within the next few years.

The new gym is about 2,900 square feet larger than the old one and eliminates the need to hold phys ed classes in the school's auditorium, which features a sloped floor.

"It's a larger space by all means," said Claudia Tippett, a Tremont phys ed teacher. Rather than holding phys ed classes in both the old gym and auditorium, the new gym can host two classes simultaneously, separated by a curtain.

"Even with the curtain down in the middle of the gym, we still have more space than in the auditorium," Tippett said.

The gym also offers new, built-in storage rooms and six adjustable-height basketball goals, and will soon feature bleachers that can be used for school programs, town hall meetings and youth and adult intramural sports that are held during nonschool hours.

"The kids are excited and have a lot of questions about it," said Eliza Kroger, a Tremont phys ed teacher. "In the auditorium, it was so small that we had to adapt games for the space.

"It's a nice facility. It looks nice and the windows allow a lot of light in. This space was definitely needed."

Now that the gym has been completed, the final phases of the ongoing work at Tremont will turn to construction of a new, more secure entrance to the school that will funnel visitors through a reception area before they can access other areas of the building.

Those renovations will create new and bigger administrative offices and teacher break rooms, as well as the conversion of the old gym into cafeteria space.

All will be marked improvements to the school, which was built in 1952, Upper Arlington Schools Chief Operating Officer Chris Potts said in January.

"This work aligns us with the best practices in school security these days," he said.