LEHI — The tunnels beneath Lehi High School will soon be demolished to make way for a new remodel.
“It’s the service center. The heartbeat of the building,” Max Berry, Lehi High School facility manager of 28 years said.
He’s talking about the tunnels.
Many don’t know the underground pathways exist under Lehi High School, unless you are a former student who has tried to sneak through them, or a teacher who has heard strange sounds coming from them, after hours.
The tunnels are anywhere from 3 feet to 5½ feet in height. They span the entire campus of the school.
“They’ve been here since 1958,” Berry said while pointing to an original pipe. “All the utilities are here. Newer construction puts them in the ceiling, but that’s not how they did it in the 1950s.”
Berry goes down into the tunnels at least once a week to check for leaks and change filters.
“I have been inside these tunnels when the water is three feet high due to breakages,” Berry told KSL. “We would swim, wade, and work through it. Multiple district workers have witnessed that. But yet we were able to hold class. If we had a line break in the ceiling, the classroom would get wet. And that’s the downside.”
Russ Felt, who worked as Lehi High’s vice principal in the late 1970s and as principal in the 1980s, told KSL he considers himself to be an old-timer.
“Lehi has changed from a little place where everybody knew everybody to something quite large now,” Felt said. “I had a difficult time thinking of American Fork as anything but a rival. And now we have another high school, Skyridge, right in Lehi.”
In 1980, Lehi City’s population was 6,848 according to World Population Review. In 2017, the population totaled more than 63,000.
To accommodate for the growth, Lehi High School has experienced four additions/construction projects in the last 25 years.
Felt remembers what he calls a simpler time.
“There was the bakery downtown. The Tuckett family owned the place. I would tease students by saying, ‘How bad do you want to graduate? I better have a jelly doughnut from (the) Tucketts.’”
Felt chuckled, “After doughnuts and a lot of hard work… they graduated.”
The tunnels showcase their age. Remnants of emergency supplies left over from the Cold War are stacked high.
“Many of those things have to do with bomb shelters and were to prepare us if there was ever a global attack,” Felt said.
Phase-1 of demolition begins in two weeks.
A phase-2 project to demolish the current gyms and auditorium will begin in two years.
Berry told KSL the project should be completed come 2022.
“It’s tricky because we will continue to educate students through the construction phases.”
For 24-year football and wrestling coach Dan Rice, he looks forward to a larger gym.
“I will miss the historic gym, but we desperately need a larger facility,” Rice said.
Rice said no one told him about the tunnels when he started teaching.
“I actually found the tunnels because a kid was sluffing, and I went after him. He went into the boy’s locker room and disappeared,” Rice said. “You used to be able to go into the tunnels from the boy’s varsity locker room. Then you could sneak out toward the football field.”
It’s been an escape route to sluffing, the home of a general heating and cooling system, and the topic of hundreds of stories from nearly six decades.
“I have been in my wrestling office and heard stuff moving around late at night. No one was there when I went to check, but I did hear voices from the tunnels,” Rice said.
Numerous students believe a ghost haunts the maintenance tunnels. Stories, that many call folklore, will soon have no tangible evidence.
The north side of the school, including the tunnels on that end, will be demolished July 1.