Students play basketball on one of the four courts in the fieldhouse of the Leo and Joan Mahoney Wellness Center at St. John’s Prep. (Spenser Hasak)
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Yogurt parfaits, an Olympic-sized pool, and up to 400 kids in a gymnasium are just some of the things going on at St. John’s Prep’s Leo and Joan Mahoney Wellness Center.
The Wellness Center, a two-story building spanning 78,000 square feet, is the school’s primary athletic facility, which athletic director Jameson Pelkey says there’s never a dull moment.
“There’s not really any downtime when things aren’t going on here,” Pelkey said.
To Pelkey, it’s all about the sense of community. With such a versatile amount of activities going on, it makes the school feel more like a collective unit, and less like individual teams competing.
Everyone spending time around each other – no matter the team or club – definitely plays a part in ‘the brotherhood’ culture, according to Pelkey.
“Naturally, you’re going to meet different people and get involved,” Pelkey said. “We try to have our kids support each other at games and other areas of life.”
Something else Pelkey enjoys about the center is “there’s something for everyone.” Even for kids who aren’t a part of teams such as basketball and football, there’s plenty of facility space for activities such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the Prep’s powerlifting club.
After walking up the building’s steps, the options are seemingly endless. There are four multi-purpose rooms where students can take full advantage of their interests. Featuring white boards, projectors, and lots of space, the rooms’ uses include speaking programs, yoga, and film study.
“They’re able to plug their laptop in and watch film, do whatever,” Pelkey said.
Right by the multi-purpose rooms is a snack bar and cafe area where students can get wraps, salads, and drinks. Beside it, there are hangout spots for socializing and homework.
“You name it, we do it,” Pelkey said.
For a school that has 20 sports, almost 140 coaches, and more than 70 teams, the center’s four-court fieldhouse is the perfect place for teams to practice efficiently. For example, Pelkey said during the 3-5 p.m. practice slot, intramurals, wrestling, basketball, and track can all be done at the same time.
“If there’s a person who likes high school sports, they’re going to be here. That’s what it does,” Pelkey said.
Also inside, there’s an eight-lane, Olympic-sized pool where the Prep’s swimmers and divers can practice in style. Walk outside the pool, and there’s another exercise room featuring free weights, TRX machines, and a patch of turf flooring so athletes can prepare for a gameday scenario.
On the basement level, student-athletes get the full college experience. Stemming from the basement is a tunnel the Eagles run through before taking the field. This past Thanksgiving against Xaverian, it was the highest attendance at the new facility with approximately 5,000 people.
“It’s one of those areas they gravitate towards,” Pelkey said.
During school vacations and summertime, alums are allowed to use the facilities. There’s also a storage area where student-athletes can keep equipment and other belongings over time.
Most recently, the Prep has taken home Division 1 state championships in both football and boys soccer. Also, runner Nathan Lopez and football star Joenel Aguero will be taking their talents to Michigan (Lopez) and Georgia (Aguero), respectively.
That said, those unseen hours of work put in the Wellness Center seem to be paying off, and the brotherhood hopes a few more trophies head its way in the coming seasons.