Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss and the San Marino School Board will ask the City of San Marino for $2 million to help build the Barth Athletic Complex at Huntington Middle School when the two governing bodies meet on Weds., Nov. 9.

Cherniss first made public the district’s intentions at the Tues., Oct. 18 meeting of the San Marino City Club, where he was the keynote speaker.

The contribution will be credited against future facility usage, according to Cherniss, who stressed that the entire investment will eventually be returned to the city.

“We will not be asking for a gift, but rather a rental fee contribution of $2 million towards hourly City use of all the new facilities constructed within the Barth Athletic Complex; including a regulation size gymnasium, the Sloan Fitness Center, the Barger multi-purpose room, media classrooms, and a track and field,” Cherniss told The Tribune. “The funds contributed by the City would greatly reduce the amount of money our District would need to raise and or borrow to complete the projected $14 million project.”

The SMUSD is set to break ground on the project on June 1, 2017 and estimates the project to be ready for use in 18 months.

The facility will include a new gymnasium, fitness room, boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, a multi-purpose room, track and athletic field.

San Marino residents Avery & Andy Barth last year made an initial donation of $3.5 million for the project. Lisa & Tim Sloan purchased naming rights for the fitness center for $500,000 and the Barger Family, likewise, will have naming rights of the multi-purpose room for their gift of $250,000.

Other contributors include a $50,000 donation from the family of Valerie & Aaron Weiss, $25,000 from Pat Haden via the Fletcher Jones Foundation and $50,000 from the William Hurt Foundation.

The San Marino Unified School District will contribute $2 million.

“We are trying to get to $10 million,” said Cherniss. “We still have naming rights to the gym, which we hope will be a 7-figure number, as well as the track, media classrooms and locker rooms.”

Cherniss said the district would borrow whatever would be necessary to finish the project, but hopes that donations fill in the gaps.

Members of the San Marino City Council and others from the community were asked about their opinions on the matter.

“This contribution would be a terrific and tangible example of how the City and School District can work together to meet the needs of our citizenry,” Andy Barth said. “The athletic complex at Huntington will both provide for a significant improvement to the athletic programs at our middle school while also helping to provide much-needed additional capacity in the community. Such a contribution is a win-win.”

“As a general proposition, I am in favor of the city making a contribution to the funding for building a new gym at Huntington Middle School,” said Council Member Dick Ward. “I would reserve judgment as to the exact amount until the details of facility usage by the Recreation Department have been developed.”

Council Member Steven Huang told The Tribune he felt he “needed more research and discussion during council meetings in order to determine what is best for San Marino.”

“Assuming that the break to the City on usage fees is adequate, this type of investment in our community and schools is a step I am willing to support,” said Council Member Steve Talt. “The City gets a break in fees it spends every year on facility charges, basically a return on our investment, and the schools and community get a state-of-the art facility in the middle of town.”

“In general, I am in support of this idea since the residents can also benefit from this new gym,” said Council Member Richard Sun. “However, as to the amount, I need to explore it further to understand more details about it. It has to be a win-win-win situation for the school district, the city and the residents.”

Longtime San Marino resident Stephanie Duncan served on a committee in the early 2000s that assessed developing the entire corner of Huntington and West Drives.

“I agree strongly that the city should help the district with $2 million to help build the new gym at Huntington Middle School in exchange for facility usage,” said Duncan, who is president of PTAffiliates. “For the last 20 years, I have been an advocate for this project and served on a committee that would design the whole campus which would have included a gym, track, more tennis courts, a swimming pool and underground parking. The time is now. I hope the city will step up and help solve this problem that has gone on far too long.”

President Nam Jack responded on behalf of the entire school board.

“Our community values public education like nowhere else in the country,” said Jack. “The continued success and excellence of the San Marino Unified School District defines who we are as a city. It is why many people have stayed in San Marino for generations and the reason why others continue to move here. The City has an opportunity to assist our District by contributing toward a project that has been sorely needed for many years. The Barth Athletic Complex will improve the educational experience of our children and provide opportunities for our residents and community groups to utilize a state-of-the art athletic facility which our District and our City deserves.”

In his six years as San Marino High School’s varsity basketball coach, Mihail Papadopulos has groaned about the inability to properly schedule gym time without a regulation-sized facility being available at Huntington Middle School.

“My hope is that our incredible city of San Marino will see just how valuable this new gym will be for all of our community kids and city programs,” said Papadopulos. “In my six years involved with our basketball programs, I can attest first hand just how heavily needed our current facilities have been and how much they have benefitted the development of our youth. With the growth of our programs, we now have had to consider renting gyms outside of San Marino, which has proven costly. I am excited and confident that this new Huntington Middle School gym will be a great resource and tremendous asset to our community and our youth.”

The San Marino City Council and School Board meet twice a year as a group. The district will make their formal proposal at the Wed., Nov. 9 meeting, which will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center at San Marino City Hall. The public is welcome.