Long Wait: New Facilities Have Helped Boost Longhorns, Panthers

Bond package led to new gyms, other improvements at various DISD campuses

When W.T. White High School football coach Tony Johnson first arrived on campus four years ago, his players lifted weights in a double-wide trailer with holes in the floor.

Since then, he’s found space in spare corners, bussed athletes off-campus, or scaled back the types of strength workouts many schools take for granted.

That changed over the summer when Dallas ISD unveiled a brand new 4,000-square-foot weight room at WTW as part of a 2015 bond initiative that included millions of dollars in athletic upgrades.

“I can now get 50-plus players in there to lift weights. They feel like they’re respected and taken care of,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to build a program when you don’t have that. They take great pride in it.”

The facility enhancements benefit other athletic programs, too, with renovated locker rooms and a new gymnasium that hosted basketball games starting last season. A new practice field and track are slated for completion this fall.

It’s made an immediate difference in terms of closing the gap.

Jacob Ramon
W.T. White High School expects work to wrap up this fall on a new practice field and track.

“We’re filling every inch of those spaces,” said Johnson, also the school’s athletic coordinator. “When you’re looking at houses, if the yard doesn’t look good, you don’t go in. Athletics are the front porch.”

A few miles away, Hillcrest has won more than a dozen district championships across several sports since 2018. That roughly coincides with the opening of an expansive new on-campus weight room, which probably isn’t a coincidence.

“That has complimented every sport. A lot of collaboration went into that. It’s made an immediate difference in terms of closing the gap,” said Jacob Ramon, Hillcrest football coach and athletic coordinator. “Kids want to be in there.”

The weight facility and a new competition gym are among more than $30 million in improvements at the school.

“I put mirrors in that weight room on purpose,” Ramon said. “When a kid puts a lot of effort in the weight room and then sees his progress, it’s motivation to get back in there.”

Likewise, the new gym has become a source of school pride, as reflected by increased fan attendance and student participation.

“The gym has had an impact on the spirit at our school,” Ramon said. “Hillcrest has a lot of great tradition, and that tradition is coming back, and the biggest reason is the facilities.”

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