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Memories Revived as Pieces of Woollen's Floor Find New Homes

After nearly 70 years of use, and laden with the footprints of Tar Heel basketball players, Woollen Gym’s floor has been sliced into several hundred pieces in favor of a new surface devoid of the familiar cracks, creaks and dead spots.

The gym is undergoing an extensive renovation this summer, using funds from UNC’s $500 million capital improvements plan. Along with the new flooring, which will be a maple spring-loaded design, fiberglass backboards and new padding will be installed.

“When students come back in the fall, they should walk in and think they are in a brand-new gym,” said Marty Pomerantz, director of campus recreation.

JNR Partners, a local salvage company, donated 5,000 square feet of the timeless maple flooring to the Habitat Reuse Center, which was selling 4-foot-by-7-foot blocks of the flooring for $84 each. It took less than a week for those sections to sell out; some people waited in line for almost two hours beginning in early June. One buyer bought 40 sections, amounting to about 1,500 square feet.

All proceeds are benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, which will translate the funds into new and affordable housing for needy families.

Although the salvaged flooring designated for the Habitat ReUse Center has been sold, a spokeswoman there said June 4 that large quantities of the maple flooring can be purchased online at www.jbnrpartners.com. Ten percent of all online purchases will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.

The Heels played their men’s home basketball games from 1938 to 1966 in Woollen, and the building was home to the undefeated 1957 men’s basketball championship team. In recent years, it’s notable for being frequented by numerous former Heels for pick-up games.

“An amazing number of Carolina athletes who have gone on to pro careers have come back and continue to come back to play on that floor,” Pomerantz said. “I remember looking down there and seeing a game made up of Walter Davis [’77], Mitch Kupchak [’76], Phil Ford [’78] and Dudley Bradley [’79].”

Resus Langley ’64 said he remembers watching UNC games in the gym and hopes to acquire part of the floor as a way to remember his time at the University.

“I’d like a piece from a nostalgic point of view,” he said. “I never knew Carmichael and, in fact, I moved away after I graduated. I’ve only seen men’s basketball in Woollen, besides the Smith Center.”

Liz Cairns, marketing coordinator for Wake County Habitat for Humanity said that Langley typifies the people who jumped at the chance to own part of the floor.

“A good number of people have seen it on the UNC Web site, and they’ve been calling from Virginia and all over the state,” she said. The organization couldn’t ship the orders or take credit-card orders, so all sales had to be made in person.

These days, games at the gym are known for their distinct protocol and idiosyncrasies. Regulars have learned where all the floor’s dead spots are – and play them to their advantage.

Faculty members take up four to six courts at facility every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a noon time games dubbed the NBA – Noontime Basketball Association. A group of doctors play a regular game on courts 7 and 8 on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

Pomerantz said the sleek new digs won’t stop the timeless Woollen gym tradition, only make it stronger.

“You lose some history, but everybody will still be back,” he said. “If anything I think it will just be more popular.”


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