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Norwell (Ind.) High School, home of the Knights, serves about 825 students in Ossian, Ind. — with roughly 20 percent of those being student-athletes. After decades of use, the school recently replaced its gymnasium floor with a new Aacer Anchored PowerSleeper SE flooring system. Athletic director Kelby Weybright and facilities director Adam Heckber spoke with Athletic Business about the replacement project, the challenges they faced, and what the response has been like from the campus community.
Can you tell us about the old floor?
Adam Heckber (AH): The gym floor was installed around ‘79, and it was tarred-in 2-by-4s with a layer of plywood over the top, and then maple over the top of that. We noticed that the floor was very uneven, it had several up-and-down areas to it. That's when we decided to go ahead and re-do it. Some of the nails were popping off the top of it, so you really couldn't sand it down anymore. We put the project out for bid and Kuhn Specialty Flooring got it. They ended up tearing it all the way down to the concrete, and then they installed the Aacer floor system throughout the entire main gym floor of our high school.
The original floor had 2-by-4s that had been shimmed up, so that they were supposed to be level. Then they took a bunch of hot tar, like they used to put on roofing — and poured that in. I guess you’d say the old floor didn't really have any bounce. It was more of a solid floor as opposed to the Aacer floor that we have now.
That sounds like it must have been a difficult replacement project.
Kelby Weybright (KB): Yeah, I mean that was a pain in the rear end. The tar had acted, we believe, as kind of a leveler. Our school was actually built in '68. So the floor of the gym was poured at that time. Apparently back in 1968, they didn't care if concrete was level.
So when Aacer's Certified Dealer, Kuhn Specialty Flooring came in and started to lay the Aacer floor system, they had to laser sight it — about every 18 inches by 18 inches — to put shims in. Sometimes it was a 3/8” shim, and then there’d be ½”, and then there'd be a ¼”, and then they didn't need a shim. They had to do that all the way across the gym — from one end to the other. It was quite a long process.
What was it like working with Kuhn Specialty Flooring on that?
KW: From an athletic director standpoint, they were great. The crews that they brought in were outstanding. Incredibly meticulous. Going into it, I don't think they knew how uneven our floor was. They took their time and it was a great experience working with those guys, specifically when they got here on site.
AH: Kuhn was really good working with us, making the changes — whether it be a little change or a big change. It was a pretty seamless process. They brought in three different crews: one crew to take the old floor out, one crew to put the new floor in, and then another crew that came in and finished everything. But like I said, it was a pretty seamless process. They did a pretty good job doing it all.
What about the Aacer product you selected stood out to you?
AH: Our floor was around 2-1/2” sunken into our doors, so we had to pick a system that worked with our doorways. As far as specs on what type of wood we used, we kind of talked that over with the engineers and architects.
How did you decide on a floor design?
AH: That took quite a few people to finally get that figured out.
KW: It started with coaches looking at different things they liked. Our principal is a former basketball coach so he had some opinions. We went and looked at a few floors — part of that was to try to see some of the same systems. But y'know — it came down to our coaches and what they liked. We probably went through what, ten or 15 designs?
AH: It was a lot of them, yeah.
KW: Just small tweaks here and there, and they patiently worked with us. But it is sharp. It looks great. They did a good job of incorporating the things artistically that we wanted. We would have them back again if we were doing another floor.
What aspects of the design stand out to you?
KW: We tried to incorporate a little bit of our old gold color to try to represent the past and the present. In addition to the graphics on the court, we also tied in our gold school color by adding Aacer GymCove – Gold-colored vent cove base — around the perimeter. We changed a little bit with our 'N' to make it a little closer to what it originally had been. In terms of trying to do something for our kids, it's a nice project.
We tried to make sure that our fans, the people who have been around for a while, still felt like, ‘Hey, that gym still holds what we want it to hold.’ Our gym has always been called The Castle. We incorporated that onto the sideline. That made a nice touch for people around here that refer to it as The Castle. This was about one of four athletic projects that were going on last summer. I think we did some really good things on our campus, and the gym floor is probably one of the highlights.
How has the rest of the campus community responded?
KW: Athletes and coaches like it. It’s better on joints, it's better on knees. The design work that we did, we tried to incorporate some of the old colors with kind of the new stuff, and I think our fans really like that part. And overall, it just turned out to be a really good product.