By Sam Jefferson | Community News Service
Harwood Union basketball teams likely won’t be getting their home court back before March 7.
That’s when officials aim to see contractors finish up a floor replacement after a sprinkler head broke and flooded the school’s gym in September.
“We’re hoping at the latest to have the floor done by after break, right around Town Meeting Day,” said Ray Daigle, Harwood’s director of maintenance and operations, this week.
Just under $250,000, the installation of the new gym floor by Danaher Floor Restoration from Shrewsbury, Vermont, was not the easiest process to start. The company told Daigle that to install new hardwood, it would need the flooded gym floor to reach a moisture content of at least 7%, Daigle said. It didn’t help that the work needed to be done during the winter, the driest time of the year. The solution was a bit ironic given how this all began.
“That was our biggest challenge, just trying to get the wood to absorb moisture,” Daigle said. “We actually had people go in there with paint sprayers just spewing water up to raise our humidity levels. Luckily, we eventually got it done.”
Work began in November to rip out the flooring installed in the mid-1960s when the high school was constructed. The initial completion target was the end of January, but it’s gone slower than anticipated. Despite the extra month for the project, Daigle said the new gym floor will benefit Harwood student-athletes for years to come. A key feature: it has been built with modern cushioning beneath the wood, which can prevent harsh injuries to players' knees and joints when they hit the floor. The cost of the project is being covered by insurance given the mishap that damaged the old floor.
In the meantime, Harwood’s varsity boys’ and girls’ basketball teams continue to use the gym at Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield for practices and home games. Crossett Brook Middle School has been the home base this season for the seventh- and eighth-grade teams.
This season played entirely on the road has required adjustments in managing players’ time, explained girls’ varsity coach Tommy Young. “The biggest thing for us was balancing the schedule. Usually we’d practice a bit more, but we’ve taken more days off. With our road trips we’re getting home at around 10 p.m.,” he said. “It’s important for me that, of course, they practice enough to be good at what they do, but also give them time to do work and be kids.”
Given the constant travel, Young said, his team has figured out how to make the most of their time away from their own school. “The varsity girls will request classrooms at the schools they visit so they can get homework done,” he said.
On February 15, special arrangements have been made for both varsity teams to suit up to play at the Barre Municipal Auditorium for their senior night games highlighting the 12th-grade athletes and celebrating their final season. The girls’ game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. vs. U-32. The boys get started at 7 p.m. against Williamstown, according to the Harwood online athletics calendar.
That’s not quite the end of the season, however, and school officials hope the new gym floor can be used this year for teams to play at least one game on their actual home court.
“We would love to have both our girls’ and boys’ basketball teams at least get in our gym for a little bit,” said district superintendent Michael Leichliter. “I’d like to see our seniors be the first on the floor since they’ve lost close to their whole season in their home space.”
New bleachers – originally planned for replacement this school year – were manufactured by Hussey Seating Co., in Berwick, Maine, and installed last week by R.H. Lord Co.
Work this month now focuses on finishing the floor surface in time for it to see some action before the winter sports season ends.
“They're doing the sanding now. And they'll start coating it,” Daigle said. “It'll be about three weeks before they're complete with their work. And so, we're still holding out hope.”
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.