By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
The Wolftown Community’s biggest gift this past December certainly couldn’t fit under the tree.
Two weeks ago, EBCI Project Management and Owle Construction finished work on an outdoor basketball complex that rests adjacent to the Wolftown Gym. What many are calling the ‘airnasium’, it is a fully covered and lighted court that is now accessible to the public. Brett Smith, project manager with Owle Construction, said that they stayed on-budget for the job which totaled approximately $500,000.
Wolftown Tribal Council Rep. Bo Crowe was one of the driving forces behind a resolution that was passed by Tribal Council in Sept. of 2020. This was not the first resolution on this issue to pass through Council, but Res. 243 (2020) is the one that got the job finished.
“It started through one of our community clubs. Just looking for something for the kids to be able to get out and enjoy, especially once the pandemic hit. The more stuff we could have outdoor for them was what our community club was looking for,” said Rep. Crowe.
One of the major benefits of a design like the one that they constructed is the expediency of the process. Brett Smith said that it was one of their smoothest jobs they’ve had in recent times.
“We had Padgett & Freeman out of Asheville do the design on it. We started back in early spring on the design. Got full design in about July and started construction in August. Completed about two weeks ago,” said Smith.
“It’s a pretty simple design. Pre-engineered metal building, fixed goals, and a structural slab. We are still waiting on paint supplies to fill in the more detailed paint scheme. Of course, materials are behind. But hopefully when it warms up, we’ll have it painted.”
Being able to finish the job in four months offered wins for everyone involved. The community had their facility quickly, and the contractors didn’t have to deal with escalating costs or delays.
“It was pretty straightforward. We came in and brought a little additional fill to build the side up. It went pretty smooth after that. We didn’t really have any obstacles. No schedule delays, within budget.”
Building material prices have continued to skyrocket in recent years, making the simplest jobs difficult. If a job takes a year or more, there is a high chance that material costs will escalate significantly mid-build.
“Escalation is up there. The good thing about this job is it was so quick that it didn’t give any escalation time to accumulate. Unlike other projects, where they’re year-long projects, material escalations hit monthly. Knocking the mainframe of this, the steel and concrete, out in a month and a half or so gave us that ability not to experience any escalation,” said Smith.
Chris Greene, manager of Project Management, said that rapid price increases have been a major problem for a lot of the builds in the area.
“Some of the roofing materials have gone up over 40 to 50 percent. Steel went up. One of the surprising things with this project, even with the steel package we didn’t get many huge delays. One of the things we’ve been hitting, is even on the steel, it’s been delayed by a month and some cases months. This one, that didn’t happen. Everything kind of lined up. Stars lined up, we didn’t really have to wait on anything,” said Greene.
Greene said that they looked at several different options before landing on the plot in front of the Wolftown Gym.
“They had the pavilion right up the road up here, it ended up being leased. It’s on somebody else’s property. The reason we ended up moving it down here is because it’s on Tribal property now. We can add or do whatever we need to with it,” said Greene.
The pavilion is of a similar design and at one point also had a full cover and lighting available. However, time and neglect has seen the structure take significant damage. The roof is ripped away on one end along with one of the hanging basketball hoops.
The new structure is said to be very low maintenance. Smith and Greene said that there is LED lighting, and that the steel is powder-coated and should be resistant to any weather effects. They said that sweeping the court and an occasional power-washing would suffice.
Rep. Crowe said that he has been pushing for more outdoor activities for Cherokee youth. He said that he’s excited by many of the developments over the years, from the Fire Mountain Trails to the upcoming disc golf course near Cherokee Centrals Schools.
“That’s something that I really like, the outdoors for our youth. Just trying to get them out and away from a cell phone. If we can get them away from a cell phone for a couple of hours a day, shoot I think that’s a win for all of us,” said Rep. Crowe.
He said that he is excited for this outdoor court to be another resource for Wolftown and the rest of Cherokee.
“Back during the holidays, I’d ride out just to see how it was being used. I believe one time I went by there and there was 21 kids that was out there playing. It’s been a real big hit. I was just real tickled that it got opened up for the holidays. It would have them something to do and more of a safe place for them,” said Rep. Crowe.
The ‘airnasium’ is now fully open to the public. Smith said that as soon as the supply line opens, the high-quality paint will be brought in to put the finishing touches on the court.