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Groundbreaking ceremony kicks off the multi-year high school construction project

When the current Ames High School opened in the early 1960s, the City of Ames had a population of 27,000. That number is on pace to surpass 67,000 over the next few years. And although the high school building has undergone over 15 additions and improvement projects in the intervening decades, the current facility is no longer able to meet the needs of the ever-growing student population.

On June 3rd, 2019, officials from the Ames Community School District held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $137 million high school. The project will be almost entirely funded by a bond referendum passed by the community the previous year. Working in conjunction with OPN Architects, Snyder & Associates is playing a major role in several design aspects of the new facility.

Modern Amenities to Formulate an Ideal Learning Environment

Located on the existing high school grounds, the new building will have state-of-the-art accommodations. An open commons area inside the front entrance will act as a gathering space for students, staff, and community events. Several safety features are incorporated into the building design to protect entries, including a secure vestibule and video monitoring capabilities.

Just off the commons area, are the entrances to a fine arts auditorium and a 1,800-capacity competition gymnasium with an elevated running track. A natatorium will house an eight-lane pool with starting blocks and a separate diving area. Large, open academic pods will have classroom spaces, as well as collaboration space in the middle to foster teamwork. In addition, the pod areas will be flooded with natural light through the extensive use of glass in the building design.

Site Development and Grading Design Work Takes Center Stage

The new building will be situated in the space currently occupied by the parking lot and practice fields immediately to the east of the current high school. The Snyder & Associates approach to site development is built on an extensive understanding of municipality requirements and design processes that focus on organized, cost-effective site plans. Along with site development, an extensive stormwater management plan was established by our team so the site grading would blend with the existing landscape. To that end, 3-D site models were prepared to determine cut and fill volumes to facilitate effective communication with contractors.

Multi-Phase Construction Process Poses Many Design Challenges

Since construction will be done in five phases over several years, it’s necessary to maintain the current facility at full utilization through the first three phases. After the new building is completed, the current high school will be decommissioned and demolished during phase four of the plan. The fifth phase will encompass site restoration for new athletic fields and a greenhouse where the old building stood. This multi-phase construction process created several challenges for the Snyder & Associates design team, including:

  • The need to keep all utilities active for the existing building while running the utilities for the new building through a very narrow corridor
  • Creating new stormwater infrastructure without impeding the current system
  • Maintaining full access to both sites for emergency response equipment through the entirety of the construction process
  • Providing safe access to the existing high school for the students and staff through phase three of construction
  • In order to provide parking accommodations when the new school is completed, the grading and construction of the southeast parking lot needed to be early in the phasing process

Through diligent planning and site design work, the Snyder & Associates team was able to produce a plan that fits with the phased construction parameters and addresses all challenges. This plan will serve as the benchmark as the project progresses. Stay tuned for updates as construction milestones are achieved.