Facility Operations carpenter makes artistic contribution to Assembly Hall
Nov. 16, 2016
Wes Jones remembers being 12 years old and seeing Elvis Presley perform at Assembly Hall. It was in the 1970s, when the arena was new and the basketball floor could be removed in pieces for circuses and concerts. A permanent floor was installed in 1995 for sporting events.
"It's nothing but basketball now," Jones said.
Jones is a Facility Operations carpenter responsible for several campus fixtures, including creations like a custom-made desk for a professor who needed help standing during his lectures. About a year ago, Jones was assigned his most iconic project yet: an Indiana-shaped display made from the center court of the original basketball floor. The middle sections of the court had been saved, sold and bought back by the university and were stored in the Mellencamp Pavilion.
The result of Jones' artisanship -- assembled with help from Facility Operations employees Brad Bond and Jim Crabb -- is now on display in the newly renovated and renamed Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Director of Special Projects Jeffrey Moulden said he was approached with the concept by CSO Architects, the firm in charge of the renovation. He thought Jones, with his exceptional carpentry skills, would be the perfect person for the project.
Jones said he was nervous at first to begin the time- and work-intensive task ahead of him. The panels were large and heavy, and he would have to figure out a way to hang the court on the curved wall of the north entrance lobby.
He started by cleaning each of the 12, 4-by-8-foot sections of court and removing the "sleepers" -- pieces of plywood attached to the bottom for safe storage. When the sections were neat and polished, he laid each piece out flat and fit them together like a puzzle. Jones used tape to visualize a design for the edges, which was ardently approved by Moulden and Tom Williams, director of administration in the construction management division.
It took several hours to cut out the shape, Jones said. The original plan for the court did not include a trim, but Jones thought it seemed unfinished with the raw edges visible. He made the trim himself by cutting and painting hundreds of pieces of wood for the court's perimeter.
In total, Jones thinks he spent between four to six weeks of work on the project. He said it was a privilege to work on it, and he loves when basketball fans take photos in front of the finished product.
"It's a neat feeling because I'm from Bloomington, and a lot of the people who walk through there are people I know," Jones said.
The trophy cases on either side of the old court also have Jones' name attached to them. The cases were old and worn, so Hank Hewetson, assistant vice president for capital planning and facilities, convinced the IU Athletics department to have them renovated in-house. Jones stripped the shelving and added new frames and trim, then finished them off with a fresh paint job.
Jones is proud that his handiwork, on both the trophy cases and the old court, will remain a significant part of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for decades to come.
"Not everybody gets to leave something behind," Jones said.