Statesman recalls Natatorium, East Building construction

Flash back to the crowded hallways of Stevenson in 1986, filled with students rushing to get to class, moving through only one building. Now, take a trip to the small pool and watch the divers lined up by a diving board, preparing to jump. Finally, bring yourself back to present time and stare at the sprawling structure Stevenson has become.

Throughout the years, Stevenson has changed in many ways with additions like the Point and the East Building. The transition to more modern architecture was completed in late 1996 when the administration decided to add a new pool by taking out the old one and building a completely different one, named the Patriot Natatorium. Stevenson also decided to add new classrooms, the Performing Arts Center and the Fieldhouse.

Stevenson was just beginning to adapt towards new technology and ways of learning in 1987, when English teacher James Barnabee graduated. There was no Field House or East Building back then, Barnabee said.

“When I used to be a student here, Stevenson felt similar but smaller and more congested,” Barnabee said. “As soon as the new building, or the East wing was added, the overall atmosphere felt fresh and open, especially when I came back to teach here.”

Barnabee came back to teach English in 1993, just when the Natatorium was being constructed. New additions were also in the process of being built to the East wing. When the students and teachers saw the East Building and the new additions, many were surprised as to how big it was going to be, Barnabee said.

“After some of the English department was moved to the East Building, I remember how many of my colleagues and I would joke that this building was more fashionable than the West building, since it was newer,” Barnabee said.

One of the many additions to Stevenson was the new pool—the Patriot Natatorium. The Patriot Natatorium is considered one of the finest natatoriums in Illinois by coaches and athletes alike, swim coach Greg Hartman said. Hartman was a swimming alumni who competed at Stevenson when the old pool was still in use.

“The pool that I swam at, whenever I came to this high school, was a typical shallow to deep end pool that many other high schools use,” Hartman said.

Now, with the renovations that the Natatorium went through, it has become the only high school, eight-lane, indoor, 50 meter pool in Illinois. The pool’s size makes it as large as a typical Olympic-sized natatorium. Movable bulkheads allow the pool to be configured in many ways such as splitting it up into two smaller 25 yard pools. The pool can also be constructed into short course meters and long course meters with the same bulkheads.

Stevenson has also become a public institution known not just for its structures, like the Natatorium but for its size and population. Amy Nedic ’86, remembers the high school being phenomenal and providing her with great education in academics and culture.

“When I used to cheer at Stevenson, we practiced in the Wood Commons, but we didn’t care if it felt small because we all had fun doing what we love,” Nedic said. “I made wonderful friends and memories during my time at Stevenson and 27 years later, I am still in awe of this institution.”

Although Stevenson has changed throughout its history by becoming bigger with the addition of new structures such as the Natatorium and the Fieldhouse, it has also continued to provide many different experiences and resources for alums and present students alike.