Riverhawks take long view of new school site

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 1:51 a.m.

The Armstrong Riverhawks traded in their skates for hard hats on Monday to become the first group of students to see the Armstrong Junior-Senior High School that is under construction and set to open in 2015.

Coach Doug Anthony said he hopes the visit helped to motivate the hockey team as players prepare to take on Erie Cathedral Prep at 7 tonight in the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup semifinals in RMU Island Sports Center.

“Now they can see who they're actually playing for,” Anthony said. “It's a big honor for them to come up to check it out, especially knowing there are a lot of people in both communities pulling for us. We're all one big community now.”

The team closed the regular season with four straight wins and finished with the third-most points (33) in Class AA, one point behind Cathedral Prep (17-4-2).

The 270,000-square-foot school is expected to be completed in June 2015 at a cost of $55 million. It will house about 1,775 students in grades seven through 12.

Project manager Roshelle Fennel of Reynolds Construction said the building is about 25 percent complete.

Crews built the block framing for the gymnasium, library, technology center, cafeteria, several classrooms and front offices, and began laying foundations for a large portion of the building's junior high wing. They started work on a 1,000-seat auditorium, which features stadium seating, she said.

School board Vice President Christopher Choncek said he was impressed with the progress, as well as the location of the building on Buffington Drive in Manor Township.

“This couldn't be a more perfect site, because you can look out and over both Ford City and Kittanning,” Choncek said.

Project supervisor Steve Reicher said the harsh winter slowed the project, but he is hopeful that crews will be able to make up time in spring.

“We've made a little progress and expect to really get things moving as the weather gets back on track,” Reicher said.

The 15 members of the team took a break from their hourlong tour of the construction site to look out over the valley containing Kittanning and Ford City below.

Piles of gray block and steel framing sat on the wet, muddy and often uneven ground surrounding the building behind them. Amid the sloppy landscape, the players stood in silence, drinking in the view of their two hometowns.

Goaltender Taylor Smouse, a sophomore from Kittanning, said visiting the site helped bring the group closer together.

“We have a great community with Ford City and Kittanning, and seeing this just puts it all into perspective,” Smouse said. “It's awesome, and I'm really looking forward to having my senior year at Armstrong Junior-Senior High School.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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