In his second year at Gateway High School, athletic director Brendan Netherton has overseen a vast makeover in the school’s athletic facilities, including a refurbished gymnasium, and more of an emphasis on the athletic history of the school. Gateway’s makeover is part of some big changes across Aurora Public Schools ahead of the upcoming 2019-20 prep athletic season. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

Casey Powell feels much more comfortable when he surveys all that falls under his purview as Aurora Public Schools athletic director.

The learning curve in the district’s top athletic leadership position has grown less steep after a year on the job and has Powell looking forward to what’s to come in the rapidly approaching 2019-20 school year.

“I feel like I know what I’m doing now,” Powell said with a laugh.

When he began his new post last year, Powell oversaw the finishing touches put a brand new, $1 million press box project at Aurora Public Schools Stadium begun by his predecessor, Mike Krueger. Improvements have continued at the stadium outside Hinkley High School, the district’s most used facility, including a mini-Jumbotron screen added in April.

Powell, who is a self-proclaimed tech nerd, is also pleased to have purchased and installed Pixellot cameras in all the gyms used by APS teams, which will allow for more games to be streamed online.

Many changes in the district have taken place on an individual basis, especially in looks.
Gateway has undergone the most noticeable changes, especially from a visual perspective.

Under the direction of athletic director Brendan Netherton, who is entering his second year in the job, the school’s gymnasium has undergone a massive transformation.

The floor in the gymnasium has been christened “Jeff Sweet Court” in honor of legendary boys basketball coach Jeff Sweet, who was inducted into the Gateway Athletic Hall of Fame along with former football stars Zach Latimer and Jeff Guy at ceremony in March. The court now bares a replica of Sweet’s signature on both sides.

Netherton is also working on installing two mats in the school’s long-neglected wrestling room and he is working to create more ties to the school’s athletic history in the hallways between the gymnasium and swimming pool.

Gateway’s athletic lineup has also grown, as softball — the sport in which the school collected its only athletic state championship in 1992 — is back after a hiatus.

Aurora Central continues to undergo a large number of improvements to its athletic facility, spearheaded by athletic director Rob Harrison.

Harrison has stepped down as head boys basketball coach (replacing himself with longtime assistant Marcus Shelton) to spend time revamping the campus of Aurora’s oldest high school.

The biggest addition will be completed in the coming weeks, as construction is underway on a new turf field in the stadium to the east of the school behind the APS Admissions building.

Harrison expects the project — with $250,000 of it funded by a grant from the Denver Broncos, NFL Foundation and LISC Corp. — to be completed in mid-August, which likely will require the Aurora Central football team to practice on the soccer field across the street for at least a week.

Harrison also converted half of a large room used as coaches offices into a room that various teams can use before their games to store gear. A large television and whiteboard will allow coaches to go over film before games as well with their players. Last year’s big addition, a refurbished gym floor that turned out jet black, was redone again and came out the proper shade of dark grey.

Changes at the other APS high schools are minimal in terms of facilities, however there are some in personnel.

Most notably at Rangeview, which has a new athletic director in Shawn Palmer, who takes over for well-respected veteran AD Vic Strouse. Palmer — one of only two boys basketball coaches in the school’s history — is now one of only four ADs since the doors opened in 1983 and Powell expects the transition to be pretty seamless.

“Rangeview is lucky to have Shawn take over,” Powell said. “If it was somebody brand new, Rangeview might have struggled to keep what it has going right now, but now they’ll be able to hit the ground running and keep things moving.”

Things continue to rise at Vista PEAK, which got a dedicated wrestling room last year as its biggest addition. Athletic director John Sullivan is also the school’s football coach and the Bison generated some summer momentum with their victory in the Hog Wars competition.

Hinkley remains under the direction of Rodney Padilla, who has continued to try new things at the school such as the wrestling match held in Town Center of Aurora last winter, the “Town Center Takedown.”

Aurora West College Prep has the districts other new AD in Bill Lehrer, who takes over for Kevin Stroud. Aurora West offers just boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer and volleyball, which play in the 3A classification.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports