By Dedra Cordle
Kevin Mulvany could barely contain his excitement.
As the newly minted assistant coach of the boys varsity football team at Franklin Heights High School, he was eager to take stock of the facilities that would be used for their strength and conditioning program.
During his walk-through of the weight room complex located within the school building, he was impressed with the equipment on hand but had a few concerns about its size and where it was located.
“It’s a smaller space located right on top of the gymnasium,” he said. “Not only did I think we would have issues getting 60 plus guys in there at once, I also wanted to be mindful of those accessing the floor below.
“Sometimes our guys train during their free session but no one who is working below wants to hear a bunch of people throwing heavy weights around and grunting.”
With the shared space in mind, he turned his hopes to the weight room complex within the Falcon’s Nest, an indoor recreation center located adjacent to the main building.
Having trained at a similar complex when he was a student-athlete at Grove City High School, he envisioned plenty of space for the entire team to work on their speed, strength, agility, and flexibility.
And then he walked through the doors to the room.
“Let’s just say I was surprised by what I saw,” he recalled with a laugh.
Rather than wall-to-wall machinery that is in place at other high school recreation centers, the complex was split into two sections. The first section was an unpadded place for the school’s ROTC cadets to practice drills and shooting and the second section was a place to lift weights.
Mulvany said the latter was a bit of a misnomer.
“A lot of the equipment in the facility was unusable,” he said. “There were racks that were missing pads, some of the bars were warped with age, and some of the other machines had pieces or parts missing.”
There were, however, old but still usable plates, which is primarily how the space was utilized.
As Mulvany continued to look around the complex, a vision of updating the facilities began to percolate in his mind.
Since he was new to the program and semi-new to the district as an employee – he took a job as a home instructor with South-Western City in 2011 – he didn’t feel it was “his place yet” to bring up projects that would be massive undertakings in both time and resources.
“I kept it in my mind though,” he said.
When Mulvany was named the head coach last year, the idea came back to the forefront, especially when he began planning the logistics of dividing the team up into strength and conditioning time allotments.
The final prodding that was needed, he said, came when he went to be recertified at a cardiopulmonary resuscitation class. It took place at the recreation center where the Greyhounds train.
“I just remember looking around at their facility and thinking ‘Why can’t we have something like this at Franklin Heights?’” he said.
A part of the reason, he would come to learn, is the lack of a robust booster club within the school and restricted usages for district expenses.
Knowing that if he wanted his vision of an updated weight room facility to come to fruition, he would have to come up with something grand, something ambitious, something he had never done before.
“I got the idea to start a fundraiser,” said Mulvany. “I had never done anything like this before, and it was completely out of my wheelhouse.”
The first thing he did was ask his supervisors for their blessing. Athletic director Brock Mullins said he had their complete support.
Then he collaborated with his coaches and with Nick Giglia of Straydog Strength to determine how the space could be better utilized, the equipment that would be needed, and the estimated expense of the project.
According to Mulvany, the $120,000 project would combine the two sections into one large athletic complex. It would feature durable rubber flooring, plyometric training stations, turf strips for speed training, and top-of-the-line equipment for all student-athletes to utilize.
“This is not just for the football team,” said Mulvany. “This is for every sport, for our entire student body, and it will be that way for generations to come.”
With the district’s support and the financial details in hand, Mulvany started spreading the word about this project within the school, throughout the local business community, and within the immensely loyal alumni community.
He said he has been overwhelmed by the response this project has received thus far.
“The Falcon community has just been so supportive of this project,” he said. “They see what we are trying to do, and they are helping us accomplish that goal.”
In addition to businesses buying ad space on the field, within the stadium, and soon-to-be on the tiled walls within the planned athletic performance complex, alumni can also purchase spots to honor former student-athletes. Their framed photos will go up in the Falcon’s Nest, almost like a ring of honor.
“I borrowed that idea from the Grove City recreation center,” said Mulvany. “I just loved seeing those photos when I was training there. It’s a nice homage to the people who have passed through the building.”
To date, the Franklin Heights Athletic Performance Center fundraiser has raised roughly $30,000. A silent auction is set for April 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Bingo Hall located on Demorest Road, diagonally from the school. The school is also selling custom-made T-shirts that say, “Nothing is Stronger than the Falcon Community.” They will also accept cash and check donations made out to “Franklin Heights Athletics.” Donations can be mailed to the school’s address, 1001 Demorest Road, Columbus, Ohio 43204.
Ideally, enough funds will be raised to start the expansion process this summer with the goal of hosting its grand opening in time for the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
Mullins said though that goal may not come to fruition, it is just a matter of time before the student-athletes get a new complex.
“We are very determined to see this through,” he said. “It is not a matter of if it will happen, but when.”
Mulvany expressed a similar sentiment.
“This is going to happen for our school, for our students,” he said. “It has to.”
He said he could barely contain his excitement at the thought.