By Shreyan Daulat ’23 & Will Spencer ’23
Published in The ReMarker (Oct. 2022)

It’s January 2025.

A gymnasium that seats more than 800.

A natatorium with a competition-grade pool to host water polo tournaments for the first time in school history.

State-of-the-art locker and team film rooms.

Six full-sized tennis courts and a viewing area to suit.

And so much more. 
The school first began creating long-term goals of athletic facility expansion in January 2017. But when the EF-3 tornado cut across North Dallas, damaging parts of campus and leveling the Thomas O. Hicks Family Athletic Center and Albert G. Hill Family Tennis Courts, the plans became urgent. Following the October 2019 tornado, the Board of Trustees established the Project Planning Team — led by Carl Sewell III ’02 — entrusted with determining the best route for replacing the gym and expanding facilities.
    • Sewell participates in an early visualization exercise.

    • Lissemore leads a campus tour for the CannonDesign team.

“There’s always been an understanding that over time, things were going to need to evolve on the north end of the campus,” Sewell said. “The tornado obviously provided a blank slate for what that could be, and out of that challenge came opportunity. So, once the dust had settled, and we understood what was possible, it was clear what we needed to do. As we started talking with other families and having different board-level conversations, it became clear that this project needed to do something really special. We decided this wouldn’t just be a gymnasium, but an athletic complex.”   

Sewell sees this facility as a visual and architectural statement, much in the same vein as the Winn Science Center is on the opposite side of campus.

“We’re going to add state-of-the-art locker rooms,” Sewell said. “There’ll be an alumni room with a terrace overlooking the football field. There will be many great improvements and expansions to our previous gymnasium.”

The Project Planning Team has been meeting regularly, and conversations vary in nature. Many members of the athletics department — including Director of Athletics Sean Lissemore — have played a huge role in looking at programmatic needs in the future. 

“There’s several different components to the planning,” Lissemore said. “Some meetings are more conceptual and design oriented. Some focus on the general landscape and other things like maintenance, IT and traffic flow. And others are more programmatic, focusing on what the needs are for each sport.”
“Our mission here is to build the whole boy, and athletics is a cornerstone of that process,” Sewell said. “The tornado set Lions sports back, but our hope is that this new complex will take athletics to new heights.”
When discussing aquatic sports, it became evident to the team that the current pool isn’t up to par. For junior Adrian Lutgen, three-year water polo player, the current pool situation has been anything but ideal; but they’ve made it work.

“One side of our current pool is really shallow, so we can’t tread water,” Lutgen said. “Also, it’s a really narrow pool that’s practically half the size of what a competition-grade pool is.”

The new natatorium will feature a pool capable of hosting water polo and swimming events to a greater degree, and Lutgen is particularly excited at this prospect.

“Because we can’t host tournaments on campus, we’ve been forced to travel really far,” Lutgen said. “This year, we’ve traveled to Houston, San Antonio and California because most schools in Dallas don’t host either. Hosting our own tournaments will be great because we won’t have to travel, and it’ll also benefit players academically because we’ll have more time to do homework or study.”

The fencing program may also benefit from the construction of this new complex. The team lost access to Spencer Gym for practices after the tornado because the gym was more critical for other teams. Ultimately, they moved to the outdoor basketball court for daily practice, which created several new challenges for the team.

“Our gear is not suited for outdoor play,” senior fencing captain Branden Song said. “During the fall season, it’s extremely hot practicing outside with thick, protective clothing on. We also saw equipment break down. Fencing outdoors is like playing football in a gym; it just doesn’t make sense.”

Though Song will have graduated by the time the facility is completed, he really hopes the new facility will allow future fencers to avoid the problems that he has faced the past few years.

“Fencing is a professional sport that requires a lot of sophisticated training,” Song said. “To really grow this program, to train dedicated fencers that can compete in tournaments, to build the program back up to the levels it was before the tornado, it’s really important that we go back indoors. I’m excited for younger Marksmen.”
Beyond athletics and physical education, Lissemore sees the new facility as an area of community engagement.  

“We’ll host all sorts of events there. It’ll be a great gathering location,” Lissemore said. “We want it to be a place where students can hang out during free-periods or after school.”

Ultimately, Sewell believes the Athletic Complex will spotlight athletics to a greater degree at St. Mark’s, allowing athletes, coaches and fans to continue building lasting legacies. 

“Our mission here is to build the whole boy, and athletics is a cornerstone of that process,” Sewell said. “There's truly something about getting knocked down and picking yourself back up that’s really important. It’s character-building. The tornado set Lions sports back, but our hope is that this new complex will take athletics to new heights.”
St. Mark's School of Texas
10600 Preston Road
Dallas, TX 75230-4047