Bryan Graham opened his cell phone and pulled up Triton Central’s master schedule of events. He kept scrolling and scrolling to make his point about how busy the school facilities are on a daily basis.
As soon as the renovations to the fieldhouse are complete, that schedule will get even busier.
“Some days there are 16 different events going on. Here are 13 different things on a Thursday,” said Graham, Triton Central High School’s athletic director and girls basketball coach.
Superintendent Chris Hoke and Graham showed off the updates Thursday afternoon that only strengthen Triton Central’s belief that it provides one of the best educational opportunities in the state.
All three basketball courts in the fieldhouse have new flooring that was expected to be painted this week.
A new weight room runs parallel to court No. 1. It is ready for equipment set up.
A new second level within the facility has a classroom area overlooking the courts, an office and a new wrestling room that will bring the high school and middle school wrestlers back into the high school.
More restrooms, an actual concession stand, a hitting cage and portable tennis nets make the fieldhouse multi-functional for TC’s athletes and the thousands of athletes and their families that visit Fairland for events.
Jeff Brown photos
Triton Central's renovation to its fieldhouse is nearly complete. A new first floor weight room runs parallel to the basketball courts (top photo). A second floor viewing area/classroom overlooks the basketball courts. And the new hardwood basketball surface is top of the line, according to TC athletic director and girls basketball coach Bryan Graham.
The price tag for the renovation is approximately $3.1 million, according to Hoke, who estimated the total fieldhouse investment to be about $5 million.
That is a sizable price tag for a Class 2A school surrounded by farm fields.
“It’s a marketing and branding effort,” said Hoke. “It’s the largest billboard we own. We are a business. We have a product. It’s an educational experience. Our customers are kids and their families.
“They can buy that any place in the state of Indiana. We better give them a reason to choose us. That comes down to a lot of things. It’s culture. The size of the school is critical to that. It’s programming. What do you offer? When we talk about it from a business standpoint, this is some of the best advertising and marketing we can put out there.”
Based on the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s most recent sports classifications, Triton Central is firmly lodged in the upper fourth of the Class 2A field. With 466 students counted for the two-year classification cycle, TC is the 25th largest school in 2A with football, 20th in volleyball and girls basketball and 19th in boys basketball.
South Vermillion has the largest enrollment (544 students) in 2A football; Eastern (Greentown) (522) in volleyball and girls basketball; and Boone Grove (520) in boys basketball.
So Triton Central is in no danger of bumping up to Class 3A in the next classification cycle.
Hoke credits good planning from the school board more than a decade ago for creating the positive financial situation the school is currently in which allows it to take on large infrastructure projects.
A strategic planning session in 2018 then created a vision for the school system.
“The vision the board articulates really clearly is we want to be the largest 2A school in Indiana with small college facilities,” said Hoke. “Everything we’ve done has been informed by that vision.
“We don’t want to grow outside of a 2A school because what makes us unique is a small school environment. We know our kids and our kids know us. We don’t want to lose who we are but we know if we are smart financially we can do the facilities so this thing looks like … well you just don’t see this in most 2A schools. We can do that and be financially responsible.”
Over the last five years, the school system has opened a fieldhouse, upgraded that fieldhouse, added artificial turf to the football stadium, replaced the running track, added a golf complex, improved the bus garage and completed building work on the elementary and middle schools.
“We dropped our tax levy this year,” said Hoke. “We did this project (in the fieldhouse) and cut our tax levy. It really comes down to just good planning and I can’t take credit for all that.
“Boards in years past layered their debt service schedule here in a way that as one rolls off we are able to replace it dollar for dollar and do this in an ideally levy neutral way. Our tax rate and tax levy went down for 2021 on the back end of this project because of good planning that was done 15 years ago.”
The Triton Central school district is one-stop shopping for families. The elementary, middle school and high school are all located on one campus. That allows three schools to share facilities when needed.
“The No. 1 thing is Triton Central is such a family community atmosphere,” said Graham, who has been with the school system for over two decades now. “This is a community center. It was never about making money but if it serves that purpose while at the same time serving the kids, you are going to take advantage of that. I think we use our resources very well.”
Triton Central has hosted basketball, volleyball and wrestling competitions in the fieldhouse with overflow opportunities on courts at all three schools.
“(The fieldhouse) can be as busy as we want it to be,” said Graham. “I have tons of emails and messages right now wanting to book.”
Triton Central is firmly a 2A school in athletics. The number of students based on the last classification cycle puts Triton Central as the 220th largest school in the state.
Start looking at facilities, though, and Triton Central climbs much higher in terms of educational and athletic experiences.
“It’s the new standard,” said Graham. “I’ve never seen anything like it. And, quite honestly, I don’t think you have to put the ‘2’ in front of the ‘A.’
“If you didn’t know Triton Central and I started taking pictures and sending them to you, you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, that’s a good 2A facility.’ It’s just a really good facility.”