Rio Hondo Prep to unveil state-of-the-art gym on Feb. 4.


Above: A look inside Rio Hondo Prep’s new gym. Photo courtesy of Rio Hondo Prep

For almost two years, Rio Hondo Prep’s basketball and volleyball teams have used facilities in El Monte, Monrovia and Temple City for practice and game sites.

That’s because for nearly two years, construction of a $5.8 million gymnasium has been ongoing, but that all will come to an end soon as Rio Hondo Prep is set to open its gymnasium on Feb. 4.

The state-of-the-art gymnasium was made possible through a major donation from Truman B. Stivers, who was part of Rio Hondo Prep’s Kare Youth League when he was a member in 1933. Stivers designated his gift before passing away a few years ago.

The on-campus gym is 22,090 square feet. It includes two 80-inch screens, a performance stage with lighting, four locker rooms that will serve the high school and junior high basketball teams, a referee/officials locker room with a private shower, a kitchen, training room, three classrooms and four offices for coaches.

The basketball court is college-size (94 feet by 50 feet) and can seat 300 fans, though there’s plenty of room to add bleachers. There’s also a balcony section that overlooks the court on one end.

The first game to be played there will be Feb. 10 when the Kares basketball teams host Chadwick in the final game of the regular season.

A brand new facility, however, doesn’t mean Rio Hondo Prep (99 students) is in the process of shedding its “small school” tag. Far from it, said Rio Hondo Prep athletic director Ken Drain.

“We don’t care about the tag,” he said. “We kind of embrace that. If we grew a little it’d be fine, but we’re fine with being called a small school.”

The opening has been a long time coming. For nearly two years, Rio Hondo Prep teams have had to pay $60 an hour to use an unused gymnasium at Durfee Elementary School. Additional sites have included a gym at Temple City Church of the Nazarene and Monrovia’s Mary Wilcox Center.

The lack of a home facility has caused a strain on the basketball and volleyball teams. Drain, also the school’s football and boys basketball coach, said the basketball team this season alone has had a total of five hours of practice.

To be fair, the gym hasn’t been the lone culprit on this front. Rio Hondo Prep’s entire basketball team is made up of athletes who also play football, which made another deep run in the playoffs and won the CIF-SS Northeast Division title.

The football field also suffered in the process of bringing in heavy machinery to begin construction. The field was all but ruined, but part of the money donated was used to make improvements on the field, which was completed just in time to start the season.

Despite the controlled chaos of bussing entire basketball teams, Rio Hondo Prep’s girls basketball team reached the CIF finals last year and the boys reached the semifinals.

The gym initially was scheduled to open sometime in September or October. It then got pushed back to Jan. 3, then Jan. 15 and now the new date. The school has planned events all day long, beginning with Kare Youth League games followed by an alumni basketball game that begins at 5 p.m. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the new facility is open to the public.