LAWRENCE — At precisely 9 a.m., the doors were finally unlocked and about 20 boys and girls stormed into the gymnasium at the Bruce School, looking around in amazement, as if they had entered Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Instead of chocolate, the lucky Lawrence kids were introduced to the sweet smell of a new basketball court and all of the other fixings of a Grade A gymnasium.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Bruce School eighth-grader, Eric Ubilez, one of the best basketball players in the school. “The floor used to be slippery, like you were skating. Now it’s real. It’s shiny. And you can run and stop, and play real basketball.”
This renovation — which included a new floor, two regulation glass backboards, rims, wall padding, paint and custom Celtics wall graphics, along with a new motor for a motorized hoop — was a gift of the Boston Celtics through its Shamrock Foundation.
It was a long time coming, according to Bruce School Principal Cheryl Merz, who is in her first year there. The old dark brown gym floor had not been replaced since the school was built in 1954.
“Everyone is excited, especially the students,” said Merz, with the Lawrence schools for a decade. “It’s a beautiful gym. It’s something they can be proud of. Having this gym will be a reason a lot of kids are excited to come to school.”
Lawrence Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey Riley, who has had a relationship with the Celtics and their foundation from his time in the Boston Public Schools, started the application process and got help from School Committeeman Francisco Surillo, who represents the district.
This apparently was an important investment by the Celtics and their foundation. Owner Wyc Grousbeck led a brigade of Celtics employees which included players Courtney Lee, Chris Wilcox, recently retired Keyon Dooling and Celtics mascot “Lucky.”