Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

Goodbye Basketball Sculpture, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Dwight Basset working on the sculpture-summer 2009.I knew it would not be forever but I secretly hoped it would. Alas, the Town had to remove the basketball sculpture from in front of Spanky's Restaurant this week. The base had rotted out and it was time. The Town could have simply removed the tree in 2009 when it was damaged but instead they allowed something creative to spring from it - thank you to them for that. And there is hope (and maybe a rumor) that it will re-appear somewhere else downtown soon. Don't worry - you'll be the first to know!  

I love that sculpture for several reasons. It was a magnet for people downtown. I witnessed hundreds of people posing in front of that tree for photos on football and basketball game days. Often people stopped to look at it, then cautiously walked up to touch it - some wondering if it really was a tree or just sculpted to look like one. Once my son tried to shimmy up it; he was determined to touch the basketball. Thank goodness he wasn't the one responsible for bringing it down!

But the main reason is that it was something unique and folksy for downtown. Made even more unique because it was born from a National Championship celebration and created by Dwight Basset, the Town's Economic Development Officer and occasional artist.  The sculpture added to the character of downtown and we can always use more of that. 

From Town of Chapel Hill News Release:
Basketball sculpture removed, Tree to be planted 
Posted Date: 2/21/2012

The temporary sculpture "Championship Tree" was removed Tuesday morning from its location in front of Spanky’s Restaurant at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets. Town of Chapel Hill crews will plant a tree at the site. 

Created in 2009 by Dwight Bassett, the Town's economic development officer and a master wood carver, the sculpture was carved from the trunk of a tree that had been in decline and was recommended for removal by arborists. Instead of removing the tree, Bassett saw an opportunity to create a temporary work of art to celebrate the UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels Men's Basketball Team and its NCAA victory in spring 2009. Because it was created from a living tree, the sculpture was always intended to be a short-term expression of the community’s pride and admiration for its national champions. 

"We decided to remove the tree because it was showing signs of decay and developed some splitting at the base," said Butch Kisiah, the Town's parks and recreation director. "At this time we plan to store the art piece at the Town Operations Center and are looking for a suitable location to exhibit it."