HOULTON, Maine — On Oct. 11, the Gentle Memorial Building opened up for the season. While it traditionally opens in the fall and closes in the spring, more excitement surrounded this opening date.
Last spring, the Town Council approved money toward a new gymnasium floor for the recreation facility. Over the summer, subcontractor Howland Construction of Houlton ripped up the 60-year-old floor and Space Design Systems of Kennebunk replaced it with a hard maple floor.
“We love it and have only had positive comments on the new floor,” said Marie Carmichael, recreation program director.
“The old floor was very old and tired,” said Town Manager Doug Hazlett. “It was no longer capable of being sanded and refinished. Three years ago, we placed funds into a reserve account for the purpose of replacing it. But we have been unable to add the additional money needed to do the job until this year.”
On the opening day, the gymnasium’s hardwood floor gleamed that polished shine.
“We bid the new floor and the winning bid was $51,800,” said Hazlett. “The work was recently completed and the new floor not only looks better, but it will be much safer for people using it.”
While welcome, the renovations also rekindled memories of the countless basketball games played and other activities performed on the old gym floor.
“I had mixed feelings when they started taking out the old floor,” said Carmichael. “I know if you stop and think about the number of individuals who have used this floor throughout the years it is overwhelming.”
The Gentle Memorial Building’s gymnasium was the center of almost everything from basketball, electric train races, teen dances, baton lessons, square dances and roller skating to town meetings, to name just a few.
“I know many people have very fond memories of this floor and facility,” Carmichael added. “However, I am excited for the future users as well. This is truly going to be a wonderful asset to the building and we look forward to making new memories with them.”
Hazlett said because the bid on the floor was low enough, the town will be able to replace the bleachers within the facility to meet today’s safety standards.
A new telescoping Hussey Bleacher system, which is enclosed and ADA approved, will be installed in December.
“Both improvements will be a great asset to our programs,” Carmichael said. “The youth and adults are loving the new floor. Safety was the main concern in replacing the bleachers and they will be a great addition to our facility.”
While updating the Gentle Memorial Building, new energy-saving lights were installed in the gymnasium, lounge and office. Painting is being finished on the Main Street windows, while new carpets for the office were put down and new blinds are on order.
“We are very grateful for all the new updates to our facility,” said Carmichael. “We are very fortunate to have this wonderful facility in our community and we are very thankful for the improvements.”