RURAL STREATOR — Standing in front of a small crowd in his school's newly-renovated main gymnasium, Woodland superintendent Ryan McGuckin proclaimed the $800,000 project "not quite done, but pretty darn close."
Finished or not, Woodland School's "new" gym — actually a refurbishment of the original 1953 gymnasium — has been pretty darn impressive to just about everyone who's entered.
That included those attending Wednesday evening's ceremonial grand opening, which saw Woodland community members, staff, administration and board members as well as ambassadors from the Streator Area Chamber of Commerce and the city gather to appreciate the fruits of the project.
"It's a facility that brings the whole community together," said McGuckin. "When you have five or six towns that make up Woodland, this is the central thing they can pride themselves on, one location where they can show off what Woodland is.
"When you take what the board of education has done in terms of the umpteen different projects we're working on, I think that says a lot about our trying to spruce up the place and say, 'We're investing in Woodland. Come to Woodland,' and I think we have enrollment that's up which shows that even more."
McGuckin said $500,000 of the project, covering gym renovations (the floor, bleachers, painting, etc.) — was financed by the 1% Livingston County school facility sales tax. An additional $300,000 went into the heating system, funded separately.
From the color of the walls to the gym floor itself, the basketball baskets to the bleachers, almost everything has a brighter, sharper, more-inviting feel. That includes the large "W" in the center of the floor and the smaller secondary logos facing the bleachers on both sides marking the main communities which make up Woodland — South Streator, Blackstone, Reading, Ancona, Manville and Long Point — with red stars on a map of Illinois.
Energy Systems Group of Indiana, with Scott Engstrom working out of their Lisle, Ill., office, did the construction in close collaboration with Woodland, especially facilities director Mike Hoekstra and his staff.
"We have a lot of man hours and time invested in the project," said Hoekstra, "and we're really pleased with the way it's turned out. It's a lot cleaner, a lot more updated, fresher.
"We're not done all the way. There are a couple small things to do with the lights and banners and signs and railing, but all in all I'm very impressed with how it turned out."
The Warriors' Indian-head logo and the "W"s from the original floor were kept for future display. Under that floor, the construction crew found two Woodland students from the school's early years had left their mark — with "BDM 1955" and "BETTY" written next to each other in the concrete, as was "SQUINT 1954."
The project has gone past the expected finishing date, but the wait, according to McGuckin, was worth it.
"It's beyond our expectations," McGuckin said.