Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Building On Faith, St. Pius Begins $6.1 Million Project

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published April 8, 2004

In 1968, Coach George Maloof led his St. Pius X High School football team to a state championship.

It was raining “like the dickens,” he remembered, and the 13 or 14 busloads of Golden Lions fans were not let down, as the team beat Gainesville High School 6-0.

“It was a great time,” Maloof remembers. “I still get chills thinking about it. There were signs—‘Maloof for President’—everyone was so excited. We were the first Catholic school to win a state championship.”

On a beautiful spring day, 36 years later, faculty, students and Archbishop John F. Donoghue broke ground for a $6.1 million renovation and expansion project at the school. Included in the project are improvements to the St. Pius football stadium, which will be renamed to honor Coach Maloof.

Maloof was the first person hired at St. Pius X High School when it opened in 1958.

The new Catholic high school was rumored to be the first air-conditioned school in the South, and Maloof and the faculty of those early years treated the school like a newborn.

“It was like having a baby and raising a baby,” he said. “We knew that it was going to be one of the finest high schools in the country, and everyone pitched in. It was like a family.”

During his tenure at St. Pius, Maloof wore many hats, including those of athletic director, math and mechanical drawing teacher, assistant principal and dean of discipline.

But it was his head football coach hat that Maloof loved the most. They began small, with a junior varsity team.

“We wanted to do it right and grow,” he said. “I remember that our helmets didn’t even come in until the day before the first game.”

The young team worked hard, losing only the first two games but winning the next six in a row.

“It was a tremendous feeling,” he said. “Everyone worked together.”

Maloof was on hand as an honored guest for the ground-breaking ceremony held March 26.

Principal Steve Spellman began the festivities by giving thanks to God.

“This day is a wonderful gift from our Lord. It’s a beautiful day—one that we have looked forward to for a long time,” he said. “This is a culmination of three years of preparation, planning and, more importantly, prayer.”

The project, he said, will “significantly augment our mission of educating hearts, minds, bodies and souls, in an environment of Catholic education and excellence.”

“Our goal is to be the finest Catholic high school in America,” he said.

In addition to the stadium improvements, the expansion and renovation will include St. Pius’ cafeteria and arts building. At the groundbreaking, Lisa Martin, chairperson of the arts department, said she was “deeply humbled by the opportunity to expand the arts wing.”

“The students’ creative development and appreciation for the arts will continue to grow because of this and make us the best high school arts program in the state of Georgia,” she said. “We are blessed to have such a supportive community.”

Athletic director Mark Kelly also addressed the crowd.

“The athletic expansion of the stadium and the new turf will benefit not only all the students but the entire community,” he said. “I am proud of the way this has been carried out and the way this has brought the whole St. Pius community together.”

Spellman then introduced the archbishop who, he said, “has led the explosive growth of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” and has been a great friend to St. Pius.

In his remarks at the ground-breaking, Archbishop Donoghue said that there are two things he always knows about St. Pius High School.

“First, that this institution is one of the great legacies of the Catholic people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, a legacy handed down from generation to generation, and with no goal in mind, but to serve our children, and to make the world a better place, through the love of Jesus Christ who governs all our activities,” he said. “And second, I always realize that no matter how great as that project from last year was, or that last improvement campaign, there is always one better to come.”

The archbishop noted the significance of the name of the capital campaign—“Building on Faith”—that the school used to raise the funds for the project.

“But in that last word—and I mean faith—in faith we note the really necessary ingredient—the leaven of the dough, the rising of the batter, the bubble of the champagne, the snap-crackle-and-pop of the whole mixture, without which the thing will never come to life. We have to have ‘faith,’ and I think we truly do,” he said.

Finally, the archbishop prayed that the improvements to the school would serve to glorify God.

“May this blessing, which we begin to make real today—the new and improved ‘Pi-Hi,’ succeed in all its aspects—may all those who work and labor to bring it to reality, do so in safety and with the best workmanship possible. And finally, when it is all finished, may the day come when humbly, we turn again to the God who inspired this goal, who inspired all of you to make it real—may we turn to Him once more, with sincere thanksgiving.”

The project was designed by MSTSD, Inc., with Jay Suever, a 1984 St. Pius graduate, serving as lead architect. The general contractor is Winter Companies.

With the completion of the project, the cafeteria will be expanded so 350 students can be served at each lunch period, reducing the number of lunch periods to three and alleviating many scheduling problems. The space will also be brightened so it is more visually appealing, and the kitchen will be relocated and modernized to provide two serving lines and more food choices. The bookstore, currently located within the cafeteria, will also be relocated to a new, larger location providing an outside entrance for easier access by students, parents and alumni.

The expansion plan also includes the arts building. Hallinan Hall was built in 1985 to provide facilities for the performing arts. Nearly 20 years later this space is limiting both the number of students that can participate in these activities and the quality of their experience. Expansion of this facility will add nearly 10,000 square feet to the arts facility, creating a fine arts wing where all arts classes, visual as well as performing, can be centrally located. It will also relocate the graphic arts classroom to this upgraded wing, freeing space in the classroom building, Maloney Hall, for two new classrooms.

The Hallinan addition will provide enlarged classroom spaces for drama, dance and band/chorus, add four practice rooms for individual and ensemble musicians, and create additional dressing room and storage space.

Finally, the St. Pius stadium will be expanded to provide seating for 5,000 spectators. The expansion will include enlargement of the current plaza to accommodate larger crowds as well as creating a more welcoming and visually appealing entrance to the stadium. The existing press box and concession stand will be razed and replaced with a larger facility. In addition to renaming the stadium after Maloof, the concession stand will be named after longtime volunteer Tom Novack. In addition, the stadium field will be resurfaced with Sprinturf, a state-of-the-art artificial surface. It will provide a playable, safe and attractive surface that can be used year-round and in any weather.

Under a cloudless sky, representatives of St. Pius’ faculty, students and staff, as well as those of the contracting and architectural companies and representatives from the archdiocese, including Archbishop Donoghue, donned hard hats and plunged their shovels into the earth for the ceremonial groundbreaking.

For Maloof, who said that having the stadium named after him is a “tremendous tribute and honor,” St. Pius remains his “baby,” despite having retired from the school in 1984.

“I never considered it work,” he said. “It was a task of love.”