Kenner upgrades flooring at city gyms

After more than seven years of negotiating, Kenner officials are ready to begin an overhaul of flooring at several of the city’s gymnasiums that have been in deplorable condition since Hurricane Katrina.

Last month, the Kenner City Council agreed to spend more than $354,000 on replacement flooring for five city gyms.

The money for the project is coming from federal payments the city received for properties that were damaged during Katrina.

Recreation Director Ken Marroccoli said the project will include repairs at the Woodlake Gymnasium, Woodward Gymnasium, Muss Bertolino Gymnasium, Butch Duhe Gymnasium and Lincoln Manor Gymnasium. Marroccoli expects that the project will be completed by mid-May.

The repairs will address damage caused by Katrina that has created unsafe and unsightly conditions at all 10 of the city’s gymnasiums. Kenner’s gymnasiums have vinyl flooring that have begun to pop up after the glue securing the tiles to the cement floor got wet during the storm. All 10 of the city’s gymnasiums received damage during Katrina.

Marroccoli said the city is installing a new product called “Sport Court” that is designed to reduce injuries and float during floods. The floor uses high-grade plastic and has been used by the United States volleyball team, Marroccoli said. Each floor costs about $68,000 to $70,000 to install, and the projects come with a 10-year warranty. The floors will resemble wood and have added cushion beneath them, he said.

“It’s really a real durable product,” Marroccoli said. “It will be more durable during another storm like Katrina.”

Marroccoli said the process of replacing the floors has been delayed because Kenner has had to restart its application for funding every time FEMA switched the liaison assigned to the city. In addition, FEMA initially only wanted to replace the floors with similar vinyl flooring, but Kenner officials argued that the Sport Court would reduce future damage.

In addition to the new flooring, the city’s gyms also received new scoreboards, wall padding and padding around basketball goals. With the changes, Kenner’s recreational offerings have been upgraded significantly, he said.

“When these floors are done, these facilities are going to have an all together different feel,” Marroccoli said.

Councilmen Joe Stagni and Gregory Carroll both praised Marroccoli and his staff for staying committed to securing the funding and the changes that were made to the gyms. Stagni said the old flooring was ugly and hurt the city’s image. Councilwoman Maria Defrancesch said the floors were dangerous for the city’s children.

“To me it’s not just the aesthetics of it, it’s a safety issue,” she said.

Stagni pushed the idea of Kenner marketing itself as a recreational destination with new improvements to the Pontchartrain Center and Laketown area planned. The Pontchartrain Center has long been a destination for amateur athletic tournaments, and Stagni said improving all of the gymnasiums helps draw in other groups.

“We’ve had a tremendous update and repair to all of our playgrounds and our gyms,” he said.

Councilman Kent Denapolis praised Marroccoli’s work as well but is also pushing for improvements to the Wentwood Gymnasium in his district. That project, along with two other gymnasiums, did not receive approval from FEMA to upgrade the flooring. Instead, those facilities are slated to have vinyl flooring put in again. Marroccoli said the city is hoping to combine money left over from the upgrades with the money FEMA provided for replacements to do some work at Wentwood.

In a separate project, the city is also ready to repair the second floor of the Wentwood Adult Gymnasium which serves as a feeding location for seniors. The city installed a somewhat controversial $200,000 elevator at the gymnasium in 2011 with the goal of turning the building into a feeding center for the elderly and food bank. Now the council must approve $95,000 in renovations to the second floor of the building to accommodate seniors.