'A big step forward': Group works to open fitness, wellness center at Hingham High

HINGHAM – A former Hingham High School concession stand near the school track could become a fitness and wellness facility for high school students.

Hingham Sports Partnership, a nonprofit organization that supports youth and high school sports, has launched a $1.5 million fundraising campaign to create "The Dock," which would be accessible to all high school students and serve as a central meeting place focused on fitness and mental health.

Hingham Sports Partnership President Deb McCarthy said the inspiration for The Dock comes from the high school mascot, the Harbormen. She said the facility would be "a central meeting place for a seaside town."

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McCarthy said she envisions The Dock to be a place for all students regardless of age, gender, physical limitations, intellectual capability or participation on sports teams. She said she and her team recognized the need for a new facility about two years ago, noticing that students work out at other gyms in other towns, which costing them money and time.

"It would be nice to have something on campus that's accessible," McCarthy said.

The school committee approved the project in 2021.

A rendering of "The Dock" project that aims to transform the old concession building at Hingham High School into a new fitness and wellness facility for high school students.
A rendering of "The Dock" project that aims to transform the old concession building at Hingham High School into a new fitness and wellness facility for high school students.

McCarthy said the existing weight room is primarily used by boys sports teams and is outdated, uninviting to female athletes and poorly ventilated with few windows. The new building would replace a structure previously used for storage by the high school maintenance crew.

Once the $1.5 million is raised, the Hingham Sports Partnership will give the money to the school and administrators will manage what happens next. McCarthy said she plans to finish fundraising by the middle of 2023 and potentially break ground by the end of next year. She expects students to be able to use the facility in 2024.

The 2,500-square-foot center would encompass fitness, wellness, exercise and other programs potentially before, during and after school time. McCarthy said the new building would be energy efficient and include solar power.

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Hingham Sports Partnership has contributed $150,000 to the project and the Special Needs Athletic Partnership, a nonprofit that provides athletic and recreational programs for kids with special needs, donated $50,000, McCarthy said.

She said the groups are hopeful The Dock "propels more options for keeping kids focused on their mental and physical health."

"Regular exercise has many physical and emotional benefits, including releasing feel-good endorphins, creating social interaction, and the strategy of coping in a healthy way," McCarthy said in an email. "Even smaller amounts of activity and mindfulness can make a difference for the body and soul."

Hingham High School Principal Rick Swanson said students in all grade levels would benefit.

"It would be a big step forward for our school," Swanson said. "It would represent a significant improvement."

Swanson said there would be a lot of uses for the facility during the school day, including physical education classes, health classes and extracurricular activities.

Hingham High School has been expanding its elective programs with offerings like yoga and meditation, which are in their first year at the high school and are being held in the auditorium. The classes are popular and feedback from students has been positive, Swanson said.

"I expect that program to grow in the future," he said. "We all recognize the growing mental health concerns."

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Swanson expressed gratitude for the Hingham Sports Partnership and said community collaborations are crucial for projects like these. He said he is thankful for the organization's vision that "aligns with our values at our school."

"It amplifies, it illustrates the value of community partnerships," he said. "It's a really ambitious project, but an important one."

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Reach Joel Barnes at jkbarnes@patriotledger.com.

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Nonprofit works to open new fitness, wellness center at Hingham High