The basketball teams at Evans and Harlem high schools are expecting to have home-court advantages next season, and there's no need to knock on wood - that's the surface they'll be playing on.
The old composition floors at the Evans and Harlem gyms are being replaced with wood. The construction work began last month, and the cost is covered by the special-purposelocal option sales tax.
"It's exciting. We really needed a new floor, because the other one had seen so many years of use," Evans High School athletic director Gail Connor said.
Sales-tax funds also will pay for new bleachers at Evans and Harlem.
Evans has had the same floor and bleachers since the school opened in 1981, and Harlem's gym floor also dates back to the early 1980s.
Because of the ongoing project, Evans basketball coach Kevin Kenny had to cancel the second session of his youth basketball camp this month, but he realizes that was a small price to pay.
"The work was needed, big-time," Kenny said.
The total cost of the gym renovations at Harlem and Evans is around $322,0000, according to Charles Nagle, Columbia County associate school superintendent.
"Hardwood floors cost a little more, but their life span is twice as long as composition floors," Nagle said. "Wooden floors also are better for the players. Concrete floors don't give much when you fall."
The bleacher work is being done by H.E. Hodge company, while the floors are being resurfaced by Southeastern Building Services.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed, but we hope to have both gym floors finished by the first of August, and have the bleachers in by mid-September," Nagle said.
Fans aren't the only ones who will enjoy the new bleachers, which can be opened and closed at the touch of a button.
"It's going to be fantastic," Harlem Bulldogs basketball coach Kim Chambers said. "Those old bleachers were hard to push in and out. They were a constant struggle. Now we're going to have an automated system."
Convenience is a bonus - the real boon is making spectators safer.
"The bleachers were really becoming a safety hazard because they were pulling away from the walls," Nagle said.
Last summer, the gym floors were refinished at Columbia, Evans and Harlem middle schools. Nagle said there are plans to improve the gyms at Lakeside High School, and Lakeside and Riverside middle schools.
For Evans and Harlem high schools, the wait is almost over, and Chambers is anxious to see the final results.
"I don't care what we did, the old floor was always slippery. It's going to be nice to get some traction now with the wooden floor," Chambers said. "I'm just tickled to death about getting a new floor. There's some spring in a wooden floor, and it seems to help the players jump higher. The big thing for us is defense, because we'll have better traction."
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