After nearly a decade of planning, John Gray High School’s new 22,000-square foot gymnasium is expected to be ready for use in time for May exams and a November National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.

Senior project manager Jonathan Matthews said the facility has come in under budget, but would not specify budget details.

“The budget is not something that can be shared at this stage. Until we’ve got to the final account agreed with [contractor] McAlpine, it would be not sensible,” he said during a gymnasium tour.

“The budget and final account is confidential. As soon as we finish the project and we’ve agreed on the final account, we’ll reveal what the budget is.”

The 18-month, 2016-17 government budget, ending in June, outlined $7.9 million to continue developing the school. Work on the new John Gray High School campus began in 2008, but was temporarily halted due to lack of funds.

As of March 2012, a reported $54.4 million had been spent on the new school. Then-Education Minister Rolston Anglin estimated $43 million more would be needed to finish the project.

Ministry of Education Chief Officer Christen Suckoo said the current project budget and the final account are tied and that one influences the other.

“Let’s not belabor this, OK? The two are tied together … The final account is going to be the agreed sum between the government and McAlpine,” Mr. Suckoo said. “So with McAlpine standing here, I will tell you frankly what the issue is. If I reveal the budget account and tell McAlpine how much money I have available before the project, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to work the budget with them to make sure what we end up with is value for the money and is the appropriate cost. If I do anything other than that I put the government’s money at risk.”

Mr. Matthews said the project budget is outlined in a cabinet-approved business case, to be made public on a later date.

He added the project has remained on track since construction restarted in June 2016, when contractor McAlpine was selected to complete the sporting facility.

Mr. Matthews said government has recently approved a strategic outline case to move forward with construction of the main John Gray High School building and repurposing of the current campus, split between JGHS and the former George Hicks Middle School properties.

Completion of a business outline case for construction of the actual high school is expected to take another five to six months. Mr. Matthews said government is expected to advertise for consultants to complete this phase is coming weeks.

If this phase keeps with the expected timeline, Mr. Matthews said construction of the high school should start in 2018 and would be completed around 2020.

The new gymnasium houses the central air conditioning for the new campus, and Mr. Matthews said this is one reason it has always been planned for construction before the main school building.

The multi-purpose sporting facility has seating capacity for 1,900 people. Beyond educational uses, it has been planned for a wide-range of public needs, including hurricane shelter, state funerals and national sporting events.

JGHS principal Jonathan Clark said the school currently uses mobile and temporary classrooms to accommodate construction plans.

“That creates problems and issues on site, in terms of supervision and keeping an eye on students. We do account for most of it but the students really do need a new school. This is really exciting and we have the first phases going through now,” Mr. Clark said.

Once construction of the new campus is complete, the current school site will be repurposed. Proposed uses of current buildings include expansion of the University College of the Cayman Islands campus, the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre or the Department of Education.


  1. A building like a school should have a total construction cost of about $100 KYD per square. foot. Plus land cost.

    A school of 100,000 square feet should cost about $10 million to build. A gym of 22,000 square feet should cost about $2.2 million in construction costs.

    By comparison building a luxury home, with marble bathrooms etc. would cost about $500 per square foot.

  2. The simple fact is that until they agree the final account, they do not know exactly how much it will have cost, but at the same time its impossible to say its under budget. Nor is the budget remotely relevant to agreeing the final amount. That’s down to the contract and any change orders, and I am sure the contract also provides for pricing in the event of a dispute. That process has nothing to do with the budget – and if it did, then telling McAlpine that their asked for amount is less than the budget would rather defeat the point of keeping the budget confidential.

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