E.A. Sports Today

Panthers new look

Wellborn formally unveils new gym floor, dedicates it to beloved former principal and County Hall of Famer Howard Waldrep Jr.

Here is an artist’s rendition of Wellborn’s new basketball floor; it has since added recognition of donors and the signature of former principal Howard Waldrep Jr. to the floor. On the cover, Martha Waldrep O’Dell, the daughter of the former principal to whom the floor is dedicated, is joined by husband Doug O’Dell and several school and community dignitaries in cutting the ribbon on the floor.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Andy Carpenter had a vision for the new gym floor at Wellborn High School shortly after he became principal. It was a design he thought would project the future and direction of the school.

Sometimes the vision and reality look different. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Wellborn principal, along with about 40 school and community dignitaries, formally cut the ribbon on the school’s new Howard Waldrep Jr. gym floor Thursday and it was, well, to use a baseball reference in a basketball gym, a home run.

“It turned out so much better than I imagined,” Carpenter said. “When you plan something like this you have a vision in your head about what you think it’s going to be and then when you come in after it’s been stained, painted and sealed and look at it, it turned out so much better.”

Workers took the old finish down to the maple floor and left the natural color. The block W in the center and interior of the 3-point arc off the foul lanes are stained in smokey charcoal. The outside borders are black and carry the names or logos of the project’s major benefactors.

The logos of the two primary donors are displayed within the court with Waldrep’s signature drawn in front of the Wellborn bench area and corresponding far right corner. 

After a highly successful career as an athlete and coach, Waldrep served as Wellborn’s principal for 25 years. He was inducted into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Fun fact: The signature is authentic. It came from the bottom of Alexandria assistant principal Doug O’Dell’s diploma Waldrep signed when his future son-in-law graduated from Wellborn.

“Mr. Waldrep’s signature on the floor, to me, really sets that nod to Wellborn history, which is great,” Carpenter said. “Having Mr. Waldrep’s signature on there means a lot to our community.”

“That’s awesome,” Martha Waldrep O’Dell said as she looked at her dad’s signature on the floor. “My dad, my mom, would be grinning from ear to ear. My kids would be grinning from ear to ear if they were here, and I am. It’s just a wonderful legacy for my dad. Just looking at it brings lots of happiness and just … fun, because he loves it here.”

No school funds were diverted to complete the project. The school raised more than $30,000 is private donations – and that doesn’t include the funds for the new entrance to the football stadium.

And the project is not altogether finished. Plans call for safety padding to added to the walls at each end and the installation of an electronic scorer’s table and message board.

“This is not going to be our we-only-use-it-for-special-occasions gym,” Carpenter said. “We spent a lot of money on it, people care about it, so we’re going to be in here whenever we can and show off what we got. We’re pretty excited about where we’re going.”

The volleyball team was the first to play on the new surface, last Thursday. 

“This is something I’ve stood for years,” Lady Panthers volleyball coach Brenda Vinson said. “I was here when it was refinished before, so I’ve stood here every day year after year after year going we need to get a new floor.

“That was one of the ideas we shot out there when Mr. Carpenter came in and he said let’s see if we can make it happen. This is for all of our student-athletes. We want everybody who gets a chance to play on it to be successful, regardless of sport.”

Wellborn volleyball coach Brenda Vinson stands beside the signature of beloved principal Howard Waldrep Jr. that adorns the school’s new gym floor in front of the home bench area. Vinson’s team was the first to play on the new court.

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