Marshall High scores big with new gym floor

EXN Exclusive! While still sturdy, this outer East Portland’s gymnasium floor was pitted, scarred, and warped. Find who paid to have the indoor sports flooring completely resurfaced … and why …

Portland Trail Blazers mascot Blaze clowns and whoops up the students and staff at Marshall Campus, as the new gym floor dedication begins.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Until this season, the caustic epithet “Jail Blazers” seemed appropriate for the professional basketball team whose members, for many years, could neither win games – nor stay out of trouble with the law.

But, capitalizing on their winning streak, the Portland Trail Blazers are building on their new winning ways outside the Rose Garden, with a community-service effort they call “Make it Better”.

Outer East Portland school benefits
On January 28, we’re attending a special rally at the 900-student Marshall Campus (formerly known as Marshall High School) on SE 91st Avenue, just east of Eastport Plaza.

“We are dedicating a newly-refinished gym floor,” beams Tom Hewitt, a teacher at Marshall High School attached to “BizTech Academy”. “It’s good to make a big difference for our kids and the community.”

The previous floor was warped, ugly-looking, and not very bright, says Hewitt. “Now this new floor surface has revived the kids both in PE classes and athletics.  It’s always been a good, springy floor.  They’ve just taken the floor down to the bare wood and refinished it. This is very cool.”

Asked what the Blazers have to do with it, Hewitt responds, “The Blazers had everything to do with it.  They paid every penny to have the floor be refinished.”

Marshall Campus staff member and students sit on the newly-refinished gym floor is a symbol of the how businesses can help public schools provide a better education, Blazers officials say.

Calls project a ‘no-brainer’
“For us this project is kind of a no-brainer,” says Traci Rose, VP of Community Relations for the Portland Trail Blazers. “We’re involved in basketball, the school plays basketball – so we went ahead and refinished this floor for them.

“Just why is the Blazers organization doing this?” we ask.

“It’s true, the Portland Trail Blazers don’t play on this floor. But the kids who do play on this floor – they’re the next generation of our sports fans, and maybe athletes.”

More importantly, Rose adds, their organization is trying to encourage other, larger corporations and individuals to contribute to upgrading sports facilities at other high schools in Portland. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to help bring these sports facilities up to par. If there is private funding, school district can concentrate its spending on programs to help improve academics.”

Blazers’ Tom Fletcher extols students to follow their lead and “make it better” in their communities.

Dedication a lively event
With the team’s mascot, Blaze, running into the bleachers and pumping up the crowd, the Trailblazers’ dedication ceremony looked more like a pep rally.

Starting the formal part of the program, Tom Fletcher, Community Relations for the Blazers, tells the students, “It is the goal of the Trail Blazers to excel on the [playing] floor. But also we want to do our best for our community, off the floor. This has always been a commitment in our organization through the years.  But it’s even more of a commitment now.

“And, I encourage you to make a difference. And the best way to ‘make a difference’ is to ‘do good when nobody is looking’. Do something in your neighborhood to make something better there.  If you do that, I guarantee the benefit will come back to you threefold.”

On had were former Portland Trail Blazers star players.

Presidential proclamation
The new Portland Trail Blazer’s president, Larry Miller, takes up the theme as he explains, “Being part of the community, it is important for the Blazers organization to give back any way we can. A few months back, we started this project, putting new basketball courts in Portland high schools. Were doing here today, dedicating this new floor, as part of our ‘Make it Better’ in Portland Public Schools.”

Stars, students and games
Tom Gilmore, Marshall Student, responds, “We’re really proud of our school. We’re presenting to a basketball that has been signed by all of our schools players.”

Past Blazer stars in attendance are introduced, the Blazers’ Cheer Leaders perform, and some of the students are chosen to participate in a “spin around and shoot a basket” game for prizes.

In all, this is a great day for a school, struggling to meet the needs of a lower income, diverse neighborhood.

On the way out, however, a staff member comments, “Now, if they could only find some money to fix the gym roof. It leaks in five places. I’d hate to see the floor ruined before summer.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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