A $12.6 million project will create new spaces for student athletes and performers at Columbus Academy.

Communications director Bob Lee said the independent, college-preparatory school at 4300 Cherry Bottom Road in Gahanna would complete expansions and renovations to the theater, as well as add a field house, thanks to private gifts and the school’s operating budget.

“Columbus Academy is fortunate to be in a strong financial position and can accomplish these objectives through generous donors who have stepped forward with substantial philanthropic gifts to provide significant funding and support of these projects,” said Melissa Soderberg, head of school.

Columbus Academy’s last renovation project was in 2016, Gahanna deputy development director Michael Blackford said Dec. 19, when the city’s planning commission approved the field house.

The 2016 project involved $16 million worth of construction, Lee said.

For the latest project, Lee said, construction of a 24,000-square-foot field house and a maintenance building – and a fitness-room expansion – are set to begin this month, with completion scheduled by next winter.

He said the field house would contain three regulation courts that would be lined for basketball and volleyball, staff offices, a meeting room for coaches, three locker rooms, a climbing wall and a storage area.

Lee said an athletics-training facility and new equipment would be added to the fitness room, and all the locker rooms would be refurbished.

“The field house flooring will be a top-of-the-line Mondo surface that professional teams use,” said Dominic Facciolla, athletics director.

“These improvements will help our department’s indoor areas match the outstanding atmosphere the school has created for its outdoor fields and will put Columbus Academy back at the forefront of athletic facilities.”

Lee said the renovation and expansion of the school’s theater would include new seats, a balcony, acoustic panels and a remodeled lobby.

Construction on the theater will begin in mid-April and should be completed by the end of September, Lee said.

“People always wish for bigger and better, but big theaters often result in less effective shows,” said Stefan Farrenkopf, an English teacher who is directing the school’s spring musical. “I’ve always loved the size of ours, especially for educational theater.

“The actors are close to every audience member, but our audience needs have outgrown the space. It’s wonderful that the school found a way to add seating while keeping the theater’s intimate feel.”

Lee said all of the school’s 1,118 students, from age 3 through grade 12, would utilize and benefit from the new facilities.

Most of the school’s students are from New Albany, with Gahanna a close second.

According to school figures, 27.9 percent of the students come from New Albany. Other communities represented include Gahanna, 21.9 percent; Columbus, 7.6 percent; Westerville, 7.3 percent; Olentangy, 6.3 percent; Dublin, 5.4 percent; Bexley, 5 percent; Pickerington, 3 percent; Upper Arlington, 2.9 percent; and Worthington, 2.4 percent.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla