YONCALLA — Brian Berry could barely contain his enthusiasm as he opened the doors to the gymnasium Tuesday afternoon at Yoncalla High School.

The superintendent and high school principal had been waiting for months to show off the results of the construction that had been going on at the school since February.

“It’s awesome for a small school. I’m real happy,” Berry said. “A lot of the seismic stuff, you don’t see it. This you do. This is totally aesthetically, you notice it right away.”

Construction was originally scheduled to be done by mid-August, in time for the volleyball season, but was delayed.

Yoncalla High School’s volleyball team played all of its home games at the Yoncalla Elementary School gym. Practice for the upcoming basketball season starts Monday in the new gym.

Although there was a lingering varnish scent and crews continued to put the finishing touches on the project, the difference was eye-catching.

The floor of Duncan Court was no longer warped and in the center was a swooping eagle, rather than a regal image of the eagle’s head. The eagle was slightly larger than the center circle.

One side of the floor says “Yoncalla,” while the other side had “Eagles” written in yellow against a navy blue background.

New padding was installed under the baskets as part of the seismic upgrades.

Yoncalla School District received $4.3 million from the state’s Seismic Rehabilitation Program, $1.3 million of which was designated to be used on the high school’s main building and $1.5 million for the gymnasium.

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The recently built gym at Yoncalla High School on Tuesday.

The gym was part of the school when it was first built in the early 1950s and had not seen any major renovation.

“This is the first year since I’ve been here, and I started in 1997, that there haven’t been any leaks,” Berry said.

The seismic grant paid for the structural changes to the building and helped repair the roof, but the school district used its own money to renovate the gymnasium. The district was able to save money by doing both construction projects at the same time.

The lower ceiling tiles were removed and the beams were left exposed after leaks in the roof were repaired. The lights installed on the beams are on a dimmer switch.

Berry was also eager to show off the ease with which the new bleachers can now be pushed in or out. The majority of the work was done with the push of a button.

“I’m very happy I’ll never have to pull out another set of bleachers,” Berry said. “When I started here I was young, so pulling out and pushing in bleachers was no big deal. It’s a big deal now.”

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Yoncalla School District Superintendent and high school principal Brian Berry demonstrates the new automated bleacher retraction control in the school’s gym on Tuesday.

Berry had been posting photos on the school’s social media accounts to update the community on the project.

A post to Facebook with pictures of the nearly completed gym drew extremely positive responses from the community. Among the many comments were an “Absolutely beautiful,” from one person and a “Looking fantastic! Can’t wait to try the bleachers out,” from another.

Berry said there will be an unveiling of the new gym to the community, although those plans have not yet been solidified. The first home basketball games will be Dec. 5.

The gymnasium, which is used for assemblies, concerts, athletics, physical education classes and other community events, was ready to use Tuesday, but there will still be ongoing work in the next few weeks.

Electricians will finish up some of their work, a noticeable echo will be remedied with special wall coverings and the practice basketball hoops will be replaced along with a few other finishing touches.

“They said the actual bones of the building were really good,” Berry said. “So then it was, ‘Let’s start fixing some stuff and make the rest of the building look like the bones.’”

As a result of the work inside the gymnasium, the school district also decided to remove the stage to make room for more classroom space.

The woodshop classroom was extended and the weight room was moved to the new classroom that was created. With the help of a grant from the Oregon School Activities Association Foundation, the school was able to upgrade a lot of its weight room equipment as well.

A special education classroom was constructed where the weight room used to be.

One of the few things that will not be removed is a porcelain water fountain that was installed when the school was first constructed.

Everything else will be brand new.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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