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Riverbank High Opens New Gymnasium

Dwarfed by the angled, red metal roof, soaring glass frontage and climbing columns of a new Riverbank High School gymnasium, residents paused outside to wonder at its architecture on Tuesday, March 31, then moved into the equally spacious interior to admire the huge space of the gymnasium's court with its state of the art systems for lighting, sound and air circulation.

A year in the making, the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium - named after the school's first principal - was finally ready to dedicate and open to the school's basketball and volleyball games, other sports contests, physical education classes and community events.

"We are all very excited to see this day finally arrive," said RHS principal Christine Facella, who welcomed the crowd. "For many months, we have been witnesses to construction which has resulted in this beautiful building we are present in today. Students of Riverbank both past and present have worked hard to bring the gym to realization. Their efforts and hard work will be well rewarded as they take to the new gym floor and begin a new chapter in Riverbank High School history."

Students, staff, parents, special guests and residents also heard addresses by Associated Student Body President Tayler Anderson and Riverbank Superintendent of Schools Ken Geisick; a history by Esther Rosario and Ron Peterson of the three attempts to pass a bond issue to fund the gym and other improvements; stories by Peterson of the school's first principal Ray Fauria appointed in 1967 and introduction of family representative Marty Fauria to unveil a plaque.

In dedicating the gym, Board President Egidio Jeep Oliveira challenged the community to keep pressure on the board to deliver other long promised improvements such as a better running track, science classrooms and a performing arts center now that they have achieved tennis courts, football stadium improvements and the new gymnasium.

Former student and athlete Cohen Blount, who now works for Home Depot, then presented a late model barbecue as a gift from his company to facilitate the school's outdoor sports events.

Designed by Darden Architects of Fresno and built by C. T. Brayton & Sons of Escalon, the $11.3 million building has already won an award for innovative design from the American Institute of Architects and the California Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

The north facing windows of the main entrance and skylights throughout the building are calculated to give the best natural lighting, the sound system is Bose and the air exhaust system for the locker rooms equally state of the art, said Rick John, district director of maintenance, operations and transportation, who nursed the whole project through the numerous hurdles of the state's Office of Architecture.

Located on the east side of the old gym that was built in 1967, the new gym has a total building area of 27,500 square feet, seats 1,200 in bleachers and has a maximum capacity of 2,354 persons. The gymnasium courts layout includes 10 basketball hoops, two full size practice courts for basketball and volleyball and eight badminton courts.

John was uncertain about the exact height of the old gym ceiling. But he knows the new gym ceiling is higher at 28 feet to the bottom of the skylights and a ball won't lodge in the ceiling nearly so often.

The snack bar, to your left as you enter, and the public restrooms are on the east side of the building and designed for access from both inside or outside. That way they can serve both indoor basketball and volleyball games and outdoor track and football in the stadium.

Team facilities housed in the building's western wing that stretches toward the old gymnasium include locker rooms and toilets, coaches rooms, varsity team rooms, team lockers for junior varsity teams, and a training room with whirlpools and taping tables.

Funding for the gymnasium came from a combination of the local bond, developers' fees, Mello Roos taxes and district capital facility funds.

Trustee and former basketball coach Peterson complimented assistant superintendent Ron Costa on handling the financial aspects of the project besides Rick John, who oversaw the construction phase of the project.

He introduced RHS staff that was present when the school was first opened in 1967, including Pat Graham, Elio Guerini, Al Kinney, Ina Kassahn, Glenn Davis and Jack Alpers. He also welcomed members of the Ray Fauria family including Ray's widow Vivian, daughter Karen and sons Marty, Matt, John and Gregg.

Ray Fauria, said Peterson, had a commitment to the community and was involved in many service groups including the Riverbank Historical Society. He was Citizen of the Year in 1995.

This community involvement is still prevalent among RHS students today, he said, noting RHS students became heavily involved in the third and successful bond campaign to get the gym. They are now helping to bring a medical van to the campus to provide better health care for students and the community.

"The leaders of tomorrow are being developed on the RHS campus. Ray would be proud of that as we all are," said Peterson.

He also noted Fauria's care for his faculty. He expected staff to reach out to the students' problems and concerns. His faculty was close. Football games were opportunities for gatherings at faculty homes after the game and even competitive ping-pong games.

Among creative new programs for students, Fauria introduced the ROP building construction and adult education programs and secured a grant to fund the school library.

"Though Ray is no longer with us, his spirit remains on the RHS campus..." said Peterson. "Ray, we know you would be proud of this new addition to the campus and we are equally proud to put your name to it."