West Carteret has a new, expansive weight room after the old facility was damaged by Hurricane Florence. (Contributed photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — West Carteret debuted its new weight room last week, getting a substantial upgrade from the old facility damaged during Hurricane Florence.

With the old facility flooded and falling apart at the seams, the school sprang for a new space in an exterior brick-and-mortar hallway. The doors opened to student-athletes for the first time July 8.

“The players couldn’t believe it,” West football coach Daniel Barrow said. “Going from what we had to what we have now, it’s amazing. It’s a bigger incentive for them to get out of bed this summer and go hit the weights.”

The new weight room is expansive, taking up the space of three classrooms with the interior walls removed. Rows of multi-purpose racks and lines of dumbbells adorn the rim of the room, with fresh paint and towering mirrors situated on the walls behind them.

“I’ve been in a few high school weight rooms,” Barrow said. “I know I’ve seen pictures of grander ones, but I’ve never personally been in a better weight room.”

The fifth-year head football coach emphasized the advantage the sweeping facility offers the 3A program.

“We’ve been averaging in the 50s for our summer workouts,” he said. “In the past, we’ve had to divide the kids into groups, with one inside the weight room and another outside. There just wasn’t enough room for everyone. That first Monday, we had 62 at the workouts, and we were able to fit everyone in there comfortably.”

The multi-use rubber flooring also provides a sanitary upgrade from the rundown carpet that used to floor the facility.

“It’s going to be an easy-to-clean area,” Barrow said. “Our old weight room had carpet floors, and the walls were starting to fall apart. There were sections where you could actually see outside through the wall. It was hard to maintain it. This will be much more sanitary and easier to clean.”

Making the old facility sanitary would have been a unique challenge considering the water and mold damage sustained from the Category I hurricane that inundated the county with rain last September. Barrow remembers his first evaluation of the building after the storm had passed.

“It was pretty bad off after the hurricane,” he said. “There was water standing everywhere inside the weight room, and the ceiling was dripping down. It already wasn’t great in there before, and the storm pretty much did it in.”

Like many businesses and homes in the county, public schools were all assessed for mold and mildew in the wake of the water-logging. Measurements taken in the weight room were enough to warrant a drastic change in venue.

“We were here for our first post-storm practice when the mold guys came to measure the moisture in the weight room,” Barrow said. “We were in the locker room waiting for everyone to get there when the mold guys gave us the OK for the locker room and moved on to the weight room. About 30 minutes later, I saw them come out shaking their head. They knew it was bad off in there. It was off the charts in terms of the mold.”

West Principal Joe Poletti ultimately made the decision to scrap the old building and create space for a new weight room.

“There was some discussion of trying to save it, but with all the repairs and the cleaning, they ultimately decided to knock it down,” Barrow noted.

In the meantime, the weight room needed a temporary location, and it found one in a vacated auto shop classroom. There was no air conditioning in the building, but the student-athletes made do.

“That’s where we had weight training for the rest of the year and up until a few weeks ago,” Barrow said. “It was a good temporary space, but it’s not climate controlled so as it got hotter, it got a lot steamier in there. There was something organic about being in the shops and lifting weights, though. You’re doing a power clean (lift) right next to a car lift. It was kind of cool.”

The football team utilized one of its summer workouts to move all of the weight bars and plates into the new facility. Later, Barrow, former West football coach John Lancaster and receivers coach Sammy Teague moved the racks in and set them up in their permanent spots.

The new facility is a point of pride for all of West’s teams and student-athletes, but there’s an added bonus to football players. With a view of the stadium right outside the windows, players will get a little extra motivation as the gridiron season nears.

“Pride goes a long way,” Barrow said. “This facility will give them that and they will take pride in keeping it nice and maintained. It’s a lot like our locker room. That was a big goal of mine when I took over. I wanted a space where the kids could be proud and take ownership of it. We’ve accomplished that in both places now. We couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come.”

The West football team finished last season 6-6 overall and 3-2 in the 3A Coastal Conference. It returns to the gridiron this fall with a revamped roster after last year’s team graduated 17 seniors.

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