One of the first things Ramsey Lambert noticed when he arrived at Santa Monica High School last year was the gym weight room. It wasn’t what inspired him to work there.
“There was very outdated equipment,” the Vikings football coach said. “Other teachers and coaches said it was probably the same stuff from when they went here.”
That’s all changed. With the help of Lambert, local boosters, campus leaders and Santa Monica-Malibu school district officials, Samohi now has an upgraded weight room to support strength training activities for the hundreds of students involved in athletics each year.
The project comes at a time of increased physical development for SMMUSD, which is in the process of allocating millions in bond money for facility and technology upgrades at sites throughout the district.
The weight-room renovations began Dec. 18 and were completed before students returned from winter break, Lambert said. There’s now new flooring and fresh paint as well as updated equipment, including new weights and rack systems.
When he arrived on campus this past summer, Lambert was under the impression that it could take another half a decade for the Samohi weight room to be fully renovated. But he soon found out that Jeff Finkelstein, president of the school’s athletic booster club, the Viking Club, was already working closely with the Samohi athletic department and district officials to pool money for the project.
“This is much better than the five-year plan,” Lambert said. “There was a definite need, so it was nice to get the upgrade.”
The St. Louis Rams reportedly used the equipment after their game against the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month, according to Lambert. Then the racks were taken apart and delivered to Samohi, which Lambert said received a discount.
The upgraded weight room features eight racks for squats and bench-pressing in a multipurpose and space-efficient configuration that increased the capacity of students who can work out or exercise at any given time. There’s room for nearly 50 athletes now, roughly double the number of kids who could fit previously.
“It’s got a totally different look,” Lambert said. “The kids walk down there and think they’re at a collegiate weight room, which is what they deserve. They love it. The kids are really enjoying it.”
Lambert hopes the renovated weight room will pay dividends for the Vikings football team, which struggled mightily in their first season under the former La Canada coach. The squad went winless in 10 games on the field, although their 62-0 loss at the hands of Lawndale was later ruled a victory by forfeit after Lawndale discovered that an ineligible player had participated in the game.
The upgrades to the weight room will allow more football players to work out at once, which means that Lambert can spend more time with them on film sessions and other supplemental preparation.
“This is huge,” he said. “It’s a good way for the kids to hit the reset button. … It’s going to be big. We’re going to get stronger and faster. Our kids are only going to benefit from it.”
Lambert said it was difficult to prepare for the 2015 season because he only had a few months with his players before the first game. This time around, he has an entire offseason to help them in the weight room.
“The kids knew there was a lot stacked against them last year,” he said. “They’re excited that I’ll be here for the entire year, and we’re already implementing offseason scheduling and getting kids ready. They’re really fired up.”