Larry McAnallen watched from the second floor as school children in gray shirts and dark shorts darted across the gymnasium.
As laughter echoed through the rafters, the stewardship director for St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church thought about how many people the newly opened facility will benefit.
“We’ll fill this thing up all day every day,” he said.
St. Michael, which is located on High House Road and has about 17,000 parishioners, opened and dedicated a new two-story, $3.1 million multipurpose gym known as Archangel Hall on Aug. 16.
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The 13,000-square-foot building includes offices, conference rooms and stadium-style seating for up to 600 people in the gym.
“It’s got lots of flexibility built into it,” McAnallen said.
The 500-student private school that’s affiliated with the church will likely benefit most.
The full-size hardwood basketball court offers the school an improved venue for teaching physical education. Classes were formerly held in a smaller building and, occasionally, on the asphalt parking lot.
The new court also means the athletics department will no longer need to rent out gymnasiums across Cary to host middle school basketball games.
Curtains and rods descend from the gym ceiling whenever a stage is needed – prompting the recent inception of a performing arts club at the school.
Principal Aimee Viana said the gym is likely to further boost the appeal of the K-8 school, which won recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2010 and boasts a waiting list for enrollment.
“We’re so blessed. I just keep saying that over and over,” Viana said. “We have families who are so committed to the school and they’re so excited about the progress of the school.”
St. Michael eyed a large activity center for years amid surging interest in the church and school.
About five years ago, St. Michael hoped to build an 18,000-square-foot gym that would have included new classrooms and a dining hall. But plans fell through in 2010 due to lack of funding.
As the economy improved, church leaders found renewed enthusiasm among parishioners for a gym. So in 2012 they announced plans for a scaled-back version of the original proposal.
St. Michael paired its fundraising campaign in conjunction with the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh’s effort to build Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral.
School children wore wristbands with the words “Faith is calling” and “Build our PAC” – referring to the Parish Activity Center, which is what the gym was initially named.
“I’ve been amazed not just by the people who give money with donations big and small, but by the people who have also (given) so much of their time,” McAnallen said.
Jeanne Howard, who has kids at the school, was one of those devoted parishioners. Howard said she was motivated and moved by the outpouring of support.
“It just makes your heart feel good when people band together to get behind a cause,” she said. “It’s been extremely rewarding.”