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Hilo High’s new gym progressing, ready by July

Updated: 
May 29, 2014 - 5:47am

Project managers anticipate Hilo High School’s new gymnasium will be ready for use by late July — just in time for volleyball season.

“That’s been our goal for some time now,” said Rick Case, project superintendent with Maui-based F&H Construction.

A grand opening celebration would take place later, likely in the fall, according to Roy Kobayashi, the school’s former athletic director and current member of its gym committee.

“We’re looking at having a big event for the community in the early fall. Possibly in September. I can’t say exactly. It depends when everything is ready,” he said.

He added that work on the gym is about 85 percent complete.

On Tuesday, Case said his team has been making good progress, thanks in part to help from the weather.

“It’s been beautiful the last few weeks, hardly any rain. That’s been great,” he said.

Case said he expects to have work completed today on the gymnasium’s bleachers, and the facility’s wood floors should be finished within the next month. That will mark completion of work on the gym itself.

“We were happy to get the roof dry, and the weather helped us out. We have a $200,000 wood floor, so we can’t afford any leaks. We wanted to feel comfortable about keeping the water outside, where it’s supposed to be,” he said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, workers will begin pouring cement this week for sidewalks along the property, and drywalling and painting of the wrestling center will be completed. Also, temporary office trailers are going to start moving off the property so landscaping work on the grounds can begin.

The gym, which will cost taxpayers about $11.2 million, has been met with more than its fair share of delays since the earliest plans were made to build it. Finding funding from the state kept the project in limbo for many years, and once plans were completed, last-minute changes were required to update the structure to bring it in line with new state requirements so it could be used as an emergency shelter.

Construction on land makai of the school’s running track off of Waianuenue Avenue began in September 2012, and project managers initially expected it would be complete within a year. But negotiations between the Department of Education and the contractor over cost overruns slowed progress, as well as trouble procuring steel beams at the end of last year.

“They had to hold off, because without the beams, they couldn’t move forward on the gym. They were worried that without the beams for the roof, the gym and the floor could get wet,” Kobayashi said.

One subject that has been of concern to many people in the community has been parking, he added. With Waianuenue at the front and the river at the rear of the property, there’s little room for the parking lot, which will have about 20 or 25 spaces, as well as about 30 to 40 near the Department of Education annex.

“At one point, the discussion was you can build a complete gym, or you can just build a main gym building and not any adjoining structures and have parking. We wanted a full gym,” Kobayashi said.

Attendees at events will be asked to park in the high school’s main lot and walk across the track and over a bridge to the gymnasium. A driveway in front of the building will allow people to drop off elderly or disabled passengers and then drive mauka to the lot.

“It’s not that bad of a walk,” he said.

As the construction project has progressed, the gym committee has worked to raise funds from the community to pay for additional equipment and furnishings for the building, including new weights for the weight room and a storage shed to hold equipment.

“We had had a deadline of Dec. 13 for donations, but people kept asking about it, so we’re going to continue accepting them,” Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi did not want to say how much had been collected so far, but said the project had received many donations ranging from a minimum of $50 up to thousands of dollars.

People can still donate by logging on to Hilo High’s website at hilohs.k12.hi.us.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.