A lot of love, sweat and heartache

Published 1:09 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What began as a class project at Appalachian State for then interior-design student Julia Zellner has grown into a restoration project for the Polk County Recreation Department.

Thanks to Zellners ideas and the work of volunteers and part-time staff from the recreation department, both Stearns Gym and the Gibson Park Pool have gotten needed improvements.

And Zellner said what has actually been done is only tip of her iceberg of ideas for the countys facilities.

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Zellner, who has worked as a lifeguard and part-time employee of the recreation department since she was a teenager, said her class project included expansive renovations and expansion for Stearns Gym, which was part of the former Stearns High School that opened in 1923.

Oh, Ive got plenty of ideas, she said.

Of course, her class project did not include the budget realities that are tied to the current renovations.

That budget would be almost nil, but Recreation Director Patty Aldred has pieced together enough funds through her overall budget and an independent fund to get the makeover started.

The rest was up to Zellner and a dedicated staff.

There was a lot of love, sweat and heartache put into this, said part-time staffer Karen Silvers.

Zellner, who graduated from Appalachian State in 2006, said knowing there was little money to work with, she scaled her class project back to reality.

I knew there was next to no budget, so there wasnt much we could do but paint, she said. But I guess a little color and care could give some new life.

The first step was to change a color scheme inside Stearns Gym, which had included pink standards at courtside. The supports are still there, but now blend in with the bleachers and walls that have been repainted in different shades of gray instead of red, white and pink.

I do not miss those pink poles, Aldred said, adding that the new paint scheme makes the gym look and feel bigger, while also reflecting more of the natural light.

The project also included re-outfitting the bleachers and walls with plywood, a project that allowed a new scoreboard to be installed and recessed into the wall.

How many gyms like this have a recessed scoreboard? Aldred asked.

Future projects for the gym include a new floor and improved ceiling, which Aldred hopes will allow volleyball leagues to compete at Stearns and remove dead spots from the court.

People always say they have to learn two ways to dribble at Stearns one way for the dead spots and then another way for the rest of the court, Aldred said.

The Gibson Park Pool also got a coat of paint, which included the new Polk County Recreation logo also designed by Zellner.

The pools bathrooms and snack bar got new coats of paint a more subtle monochromatic look like the gym.

The floor of the pool, which was white with black lines for lanes, was repainted a light blue with the logo in the center in a darker shade of blue.

The main reason we did that was because of the glare, Zellner said. I remember working here as a lifeguard and the glare was terrible, so we fixed that.

Zellner said she isnt through, particularly with Stearns Gym.

I think we can do a lot with the back rooms opening them up and making them more functional, Zellner said.

Aldred said she is hoping to receive funds from the county for improvements to the floor and ceiling at Stearns Gym, but is also working on a secondary plan if that doesnt happen.

We do have a general recreation fund, and donations are accepted, she said.