Nevada's small schools often draw the short straw when it comes to championship venues. Not this year.
Bishop Gorman hosted the Division I-A, III and IV state championships on Saturday at its $10 million Fertitta Field. Gorman's more expensive and brand spanking new Fertitta Athletic Training Center served as a backdrop beyond the south end zone.
Nevada's Mackay Stadium, site of last week's Division I North title game, and UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium, the host for next week's Div. I state championship, are both bigger in square footage and capacity. But both pale in comparison when it comes to amenities.
"It was unbelievable," Pershing County coach Dave McLean said. "Any kid that goes on to play in college would be lucky to have those kind of facilities."
Gorman football coach Tony Sanchez thoroughly enjoys his new digs, but said his program is not the only one in the country with such a posh facility.
"This is very nice but it's not unheard of," said Sanchez, whose team will play at North champion Reed in a state semifinal game on Saturday. "I coached in Texas and if you go to Jenks, Oklahoma, you're going to see something like this, or Artesia, New Mexico. There are probably 20 or 30 schools across the country just like this."
True. High school football stadiums in Alabama and Arkansas ran a bill on par with Gorman's when they were built. And Allen High in Texas opened its $60 million stadium earlier this year.
"It's out there," Sanchez said. "We just haven't seen it in Nevada."
Of course not. When it comes to football, Nevada isn't Alabama or Arkansas. And especially not Texas.
But Gorman competes with the best from those states and others in the national rankings each season.
So when the parochial school outgrew its training facility four years after it opened its new campus on the far west end of Las Vegas, it built a new, state-of-the-art one.
Funded solely by the donations of the Fertitta brothers -- Frank and Lorenzo are Gorman graduates, heirs to their father's Station Casinos business and UFC owners -- Gorman's 41,324-square-foot athletic training center opened in July.
"My family has supported the school for over 30 years," said Lorenzo Fertitta, who has two sons on this year's Gorman team, including a Villanova-bound senior by the same name who had four interceptions earlier this season. "Our experience at Gorman shaped us to be successful and that experience included athletics."
The facility features a 90-seat classroom for game film study, a hydrotherapy pool and ice bath, an 11,500-square-foot weight room with an indoor four-lane, 60-yard track and a locker room that puts to shame those of the Rebels and Wolf Pack.
The second floor hosts banquets and houses the championship trophies. It also features a balcony that overlooks the football field. A 40-yard digital LED board hangs from the balcony.
At the donors' request, Gorman officials have not released the project's cost. The final price tag for the athletic training facility is rumored to be in the $20 million range.
"If there is a better facility out there I'd like to see it," said Eddie Bonine, NIAA executive director, who acknowledged he never in his 27 years in education thought such a facility would come to Nevada. "I don't know if there will be another one. But if somebody's is going to do it, they better get started now."
Gorman president John Kilduff said plenty of his school's athletes will go on to play in college and not experience the same level of facilities.
"Go back 15 years and we never envisioned we'd have these kinds of facilities and that all our students would be able to take advantage of them," Kilduff said. "We just have very generous donors and the plan came together.
"Bishop Gorman being 58 years old, we have a lot of alumni who've been very successful. And then we reached out to them about the concept of helping build the new campus, they embraced it and that's how we ended up with what we've got."
The school opened in 1954. Until 2008 it did not have a home field. The Gaels played at other high schools, city parks or at Sam Boyd. The practice field at the original campus was 50 yards long and less than regulation width.
The Fertitta's sought better when the school opened its new campus in 2007.
"What we've helped do for Gorman and what Gorman has is nothing to be ashamed of. We should all strive for better things," said Lorenzo Fertitta, who along with his older brother is worth at least $1 billion, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this year. "Gorman survived all those years without facilities and there was no complaining then. Gorman had very meager facilities at the old campus. There new facilities are a major enhancement to all for southern Nevada."
Critics of Gorman -- which won the state championship the last three years in football, last seven years in baseball and three of the last four years in boys basketball -- point to the new facilities as another egregious advantage the Gaels have not only over the state's public schools but also its other private schools.
"We hear all the grumbling and the rumors," Kilduff said. "But we had donors offer the funding to help us get these facilities. We weren't going to turn away that help."
Added Sanchez: "As pretty as it is, the weights don't lift themselves. As nice as the field is, it doesn't block and tackle."