Give the Cincinnati Bengals credit here. The Super Bowl Bengals may not have completed their own indoor facility yet, but in conjunction with the NFL Foundation, they were major participants in helping Covington Catholic build one of the most comprehensive workout centers in all of high school sports.
With a downpour making the case for an indoor facility Friday morning, they cut the ribbon on the $350,000 project in Park Hills with hundreds of celebrating Colonel fans cheering them on.
“Pretty amazing,” said Dr. Carl Brueggemann, a 1949 CovCath grad who started doing physicals for the program in 1959 after graduating from medical school and became an official team doc in 1971, just when football was getting going.
“Things just keep changing here,” said Dr. Brueggemann who recalled when his CovCath son “practiced football at the Ludlow dump.”
No dump here. The double-decked area with an artificial turf main floor accommodating a 35-yard football/soccer field (baseball too, if they let us, says Hall of Fame Coach Bill Krumpelbeck) with a second deck overlooking filled with weight and conditioning equipment and the whole place brightened up with gigantic graphics.
The only campus facility left from the original 1955 school is the gymnasium now. “Let’s just say it’s gotten a lot of use,” Principal Bob Rowe said.
When the opportunity in 2020 to acquire this property that had been a gymnastics facility and owned by CovCath alum Chuck McHale, “we could not allow the opportunity to pass by,” Rowe said.
And then COVID-19 hit. But that gave CovCath time to put together a financing plan and a long list of folks who could help make this happen. Also gave them time “to apply for a matching grant” from the NFL and the Bengals. That grant was for $167,000.
“God was looking out for us,” Rowe said. “The Bengals went to the Super Bowl and we got the matching grant from the NFL . . . This is a game-changer for our program.”
“The last two years have been very challenging,” said Athletics Director Tony Bacigalupo, credited as the “general contractor” for the project. COVID has not made things easy in education. “But the field house was always a sign of hope,” he said of the building adjoining The Gardens of Park Hills catering facility.
“When you walk in here, it looks like a Division I college facility,” Bacigalupo said, noting how it will be – and already has been — a safe place to practice in both the heat and the cold. “Hopefully any grade-schooler who sees it will want to be a CovCath Colonel.”
New director of strength and conditioning Adam Atallah was ecstatic about his new workplace. “I’m the guy who gets to walk in here every day . . . I’m in awe. We are able to get workouts timely and effective,” with athletes able to finish up on time and go home to dinner.
“This is a premier facility, the premier facility, in line with the highest level of college facilities,” Atallah says. “Nothing has been overlooked.” He loves it that he can run the weight work on one level and see that down below, assistants are getting it done on the turf.
“I want to run through a wall right now,” said Bengals Director of Community Engagement Alexandra Simons. “This project wouldn’t have been possible without all the community involvement,” she said with a nod to all those who stepped up in support at a level of “10 times” the original ask.
That would include, in addition to the NFL and the Bengals, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Cincy Ortho, Drs. Brueggemann and Anthony Zembrodt, Mr. and Mrs. Ken Williams along with the Wulfeck Family.
“Football brings people together,” Simons said, “sports brings people together. I can’t think of a better way to kick off our season next week.”
Neither can the folks from CovCath.
“Who dey?” and “Go Colonels,” the chants had become interchangeable Friday.