Archive for Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New home for Chieftain

Local man envisions piece of school’s history in future recreation center

March 29, 2006

Mark Himpel now has 182 square feet of basketball history.

And, he hopes someday it will be displayed in a community building.

Himpel recently purchased the center-court piece of the Tonganoxie High gymnasium floor for $1,000, which he donated to the athletics department. The piece has the Tonganoxie Chieftain logo painted on it.

"I didn't want it to go to waste so I offered them $1,000 and they said yes," Himpel said of the payment to the school. "I just couldn't see them throwing that in the trash."

On March 17, the gym floor was being removed to make room for a new floor, part of renovations to the gymnasium. The construction is being funded through a $25.3 million bond issue, which voters passed in November 2004.

Tonganoxie High athletics director Brandon Parker said school officials originally wanted to incorporate the piece of hardwood into what will be the new entrance to the high school west of the gymnasium.

But Parker said the floor piece was deemed too large for any walls in the entryway.

That's when Himpel entered the picture.

"It had to be out two days later and it would be trashed and go to waste," Himpel said. "I couldn't see them wasting that."

Himpel said he would like to see the Chieftain center floor piece displayed in a future community building. Although he said it's not something that could be built now, he envisions Tonganoxie someday having a community recreation center, complete with basketball courts and an indoor swimming pool.

"My thought is the next major thing the town needs is a community building," Himpel said. "I'd like to see it incorporated into the community building.

"I know that's a ways off, but I know some people would like to see it incorporated into a community building."

Although that's Himpel's dream, he said he was open to suggestions about how to display the logo.

If somebody's got a better idea, I'd be all for it," Himpel said.

The floor also holds sentimental value for Himpel. He, along with his brothers and sisters, either played basketball or led cheers on the floor when they attended Tonganoxie High School. The floor is thought to be the original floor that was installed when the high school was built about 40 years ago.

Moving the floor in pieces out of the high school was no easy task, Himpel said. It required six people to move the floor, which Himpel separated down into three pieces.

He then put a finish on the back side of the maple floor to help further preserve it. Currently, he's storing the floor pieces at home in a climate-controlled building.

Some day, he hopes the floor again will be prominently displayed in Tonganoxie.

"I think at some point it could be a big part of Tonganoxie's history and could go in a big building," Himpel said.

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