Things have changed since Frank Cruz was an athlete at St. Monica Catholic High School.

The current athletic director remembers a time before so much emphasis was placed on diet, exercise and health, a time when food was taboo in baseball dugouts.

“Back in the day, it was, ‘Suck on an orange,'” he said. “There’s so much going on with physical fitness and nutrition and refueling.”

Developments in science and technology have significantly altered the way athletes, coaches and administrators approach, prepare for and participate in sports.

And St. Monica is making upgrades of its own, as evidenced by forthcoming renovations to its athletic facilities that are part of long-term infrastructure improvements at the Santa Monica private school.

A major piece of the project will be the reconfiguration of the lower level of St. Monica’s gymnasium to include new boys and girls locker rooms and updated athletic training space.

The school’s sports programming for girls has grown dramatically since the locker rooms were built some 70 years ago, school president Thom Gasper said.

“It’s taking one of our oldest facilities and really trying to make it appropriate for today’s student-athlete,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure things are laid out in a way that supports male and female students.”

Plans include revamped weightlifting areas with space for stretching and high-intensity training. St. Monica officials are working with consultants and strength-training experts who have assisted USC and the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasper said.

To maximize space on the lower level, St. Monica will move athletic administration offices to another classroom building. Also to be relocated is a multipurpose room with audio and video technology that will be used by teams for reviewing game film, students for tutoring sessions and church members for evening meetings.

“Taking that out of our locker room facility will give us space to do it better,” Gasper said.

St. Monica has been fundraising for about 15 months and has pooled well over half of the $4.5 million needed for the assorted projects, Gasper said. The new lower level will complement the upper gym, which was rededicated three years ago after a $1.2-million renovation.

St. Monica was still fundraising as of last month, and officials are hoping to have approval to begin the project as early as January. The renovations would be complete by the start of the 2016-17 school year “in a perfect world,” Gasper said.

Officials said the improvements will benefit all students at the Lincoln Boulevard campus.

“We’re trying to raise the level of play,” said Cruz, who started as the school’s athletic director this year, “not only for the athletes but for the general student body, and develop fitness and lifelong habits.”

Library for the future

For decades, St. Monica’s library has functioned as a classic information center with stacks of books and reference materials.

But the arrival of new technology is influencing how the school envisions its library of the future.

The space to the north of the gymnasium will be converted into a modern learning center with wireless Internet access and more digital resources, including access to Santa Monica Public Library archives.

There’s no longer a need for desktop computers, Gasper said, because all students have MacBook Air laptops.

The new library will also feature comfortable furniture and areas for study groups.

Students will still have access to physical books, which Gasper said are particularly important for literacy-oriented learning at the elementary school level.

“But it’s going to look more like students learn today,” he said.

jeff@www.smdp.com

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