Decades-old gym receives makeover

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Renovating old gymnasiums can be tiring and exhausting work to the average tradesman.

Not Raul Lopez.

Excited and passionate about every job he tackles, he views old buildings as history lessons. He relishes the opportunity to see what materials were used and how older facilities were built, particularly Henderson Gym on the Mount Olive Middle School campus.

A sub-contractor with Sports Forum Group near Charlotte, Lopez and his crew put the finishing touches on the decades-old gym last week. The 3 1/2-week project took a little longer than expected with extensive sanding, repairing boards along the wall and wet-staining the current floor.

“You walk into an old gym, you walk into history because you don’t know what to expect and you never stop learning,” Lopez said. “You learn more each day in old gyms from the wall, bleachers and structure itself, which takes you back to the fifties and sixties.

“You learn how things are done those days and how we are doing things now in the industry.”

Lopez noted the original floor was a clip system, a hard and slow process that involves “knocking” each piece of wood into place. He surmised that the current floor had been placed over it as a cost-effective measure.

Over time, the first original floor had rotted and disintegrated, which caused humps in different parts. The crew stripped off the old layer of wax, sanded it and used a wet-stain system as the finish.

Wayne Fife of DadBlastedSigns created and painted “Chargers” on the baselines, and a colorful detailed Chargers logo at center court. Lopez, his crew and Fife created a piece of art that’s going to cause goose bumps when the faculty and children return to school mid-August.

“The joy is when you come to an old gym and then leave,” Lopez said. “It’s a different view and you see peoples’ faces when they walk in the gym and are like ‘wow.’ That’s the joy I get.”

Sports Forum Group has been hired to repair floors at Rosewood and Grantham middle schools before the fiscal budget year ends. They are scheduled to do similar work at Rosewood and make minor repairs at Grantham.

Tim Harrell, assistant superintendent of support services for Wayne County Public Schools, described Henderson Gym as “a piece of furniture, so you’ve got to look after it like a piece of furniture.”

The much-needed facelift brightened the court. The lines for volleyball and basketball are clear. All the “bad spots” throughout the gym that caused safety concerns have been removed.

“One of our goals [as a school board] has to be to get these spaces fixed and brought back up,” Harrell said. “Gyms like this one have not been touched maintenance-wise for floor repairs in 20, 30, 40 years.”

“It takes a lot of money to do these and take care of these floors.”

Recent repairs have created a more modern look to high school gymnasiums within the county. Stains are used instead of paints and the wood grain is visible. When the wood moves, it will not crack like paint on older floors.

Funds to complete projects of this magnitude are provided by the county commissioners. The goal is to have all the county’s gym floors repaired within a three-year period.

Left-over money is used to help cover expenses that may incur during the cooler months of the year.

Harrell didn’t put a precise price tag on Henderson Gym, but did say the graphics package had an approximate cost of $7,000. He added that when the graphics package is completed inside Southern Wayne’s new gym, the overall cost will likely double.

“We need to look after our resources and be good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars because our taxpayers do fund our schools and we need to look after it to make it last,” Harrell said.

“It’s been exciting and I love working with Raul and his guys. This is one of the easiest ways to get that morale boost, that shot in the arm for the community and the kids. It’s worth it.”

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