Construction on the North Salem gym is scheduled to be completed in August. (Photo courtesy North Salem HS)
Construction on the North Salem gym is scheduled to be completed in August. (Photo courtesy North Salem HS)

Construction on North Salem's new gym has been inconvenient – to put it mildly – for the school's sports teams in the past year.

Not only were the volleyball, basketball and wrestling teams displaced from their home, but the softball and tennis teams also were forced into a nomadic existence due to lack of space.

“As hard as it was for me with the scheduling, they had to live with it,” athletic director Brodie Cavaille said. “They're the ones that had to practice at middle schools at 6 at night. We used the other five high schools in town as our home gym.”

So as the building nears completion this summer, there is plenty of excitement to go around. The ordeal that the school has endured is about to pay off.

“Our coaches and our kids deserve the recognition of just getting through this year,” Cavaille said. “We knew what was coming, and with the gym starting to take shape, it's starting to look like home.”

The new gym is the centerpiece of a $77 million project at the school, part of a $619.7 million bond that voters approved for the Salem-Keizer School District in 2018. It also includes 22 new classrooms, an auxiliary gym, commons area, locker rooms, wrestling room, weight room, training room, kitchen, science lab and wood shop.

Of all the upgrades at district schools, North Salem's is the most extensive.

“We kind of based it on, we're going to build all this around the new gym,” Cavaille said. “We loved our gym. We had one of the very few that was small, quaint and had bleachers on four sides. It was great for athletic events, but it was horrible for running school.”

The school, originally named Salem High School, moved from a downtown location to its current building in 1937. It changed its name to North Salem when South Salem opened in 1954.

Salem won seven state titles in boys basketball from 1920 to 1950, three of them coming after the move into the current building. The gym was rebuilt in the late 1970s, but traces of the original gym remained.

“When we were going through the demolition process, we could actually see where some of the old gym floor was,” Cavaille said. “The original was kind of like a mini Mac Court, with the rafters and the steep stands looking out over the court.”

Early plans called for adding an auxiliary gym, but Cavaille said he and principal Sara Leroy successfully advocated for a new gym that would measure up with the ones at the district's other high schools.

“As beautiful as the school is with the brick, and the 1930s beautiful architecture, it hasn't had a lot of big upgrades since then,” Cavaille said. “This is about as big as it gets for us. It's a huge deal for us. One of the things was marrying the new brick design to the original brick design. We're pretty happy about it.”

The new gym – with hallways wrapped around it at the upper level – will have a modern feel inside.

“There's a lot of floor-to-ceiling windows up in those hallways, looking down into the gym,” Cavaille said. “So when it's fully lit, and you've got those hallways lit, it's going to be a pretty spectacular view down into the gym.”

Construction has continued during the coronavirus shutdown. The school is hoping the gym is completed by mid-August, in time for volleyball practices, but just to be safe, no home matches have been scheduled until mid-September.

Stayton gym facelift: Stayton took advantage of the break from school to tackle a project it had scheduled for summer.

The booster club teamed with the North Santiam School District to update the Stayton gym. The project included repairing the walls and painting the ceiling, ceiling beams, backboard support hardware and walls.

The $24,000 for the project comes from the record-breaking $120,000 the boosters raised at their annual auction in February. Last week, the district contributed additional funds to help paint the ceiling of the wrestling room on the second level of the gym.

The work was originally set for the moratorium week in July to avoid interrupting summer activities, but the unexpected lull opened a window of opportunity.

“The rock stars for this project have been the members of the maintenance staff,” booster club vice president Randy Forrette said. “They jumped in and took care of all the work in just a few days.

“They saw an opportunity to help boosters, our school, and most importantly, our unemployed community members. And they found a way to make the project happen.”

In painting the gym, workers covered the iconic four flying eagles that had been on the walls for 27 years. They will be replaced by a new Eagle logo.

The school also will update and rehang its state and conference banners.

Tigers' new home: After years of borrowing, leasing and renting spaces, Central Christian has its own gym for the first time since the school opened in 1992.

The 1A school in Redmond had played games at grade schools, churches, outdoor parks and even a barn. In 2018, it bought a 14,000-square foot office space adjacent to its main school building and began remodeling it in August 2019.

The project is scheduled to be completed late this month, according to athletic director Brian Delamarter. The building will have a full-size gym, locker room, two classrooms, weight room, kitchen and concessions area.

-- Jeremy McDonald contributed to this report