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Rogue Valley catches the Nike Bug

Rogue Valley sculptor Tim Gallagher has helped design a series of modifiedVolkswagen sports-oriented vehicles for Nike, this one aimed at basketballfans.

Local businesses get a piece of the action in creating promotional footballand basketball cars for Portland-based athletic-shoe corporation

The world's largest athletic shoe company has dipped a toe into JacksonCounty for the talent to build a fleet of Nike Volkswagens.

The Portland-based company conceived the notion of promotional VW Beetlesrepresenting football and basketball.

It's taken the work of a lot of skilled people, said sculptorTim Gallagher, who brought the work to the Rogue Valley, where he grew up.

He's already finished a pair of football Bugs -- helmet-clad Beetlespulling Nike shoebox trailers loaded with obstacle-course equipment. TheVW is equipped with a booming stereo and a football launcher that figuresin the course.

The obstacle courses debuted at the UCLA-Oregon game in Eugene, wherethe cars paid visits to schools as well as Autzen Stadium. Kids who runthe course get a T-shirt.

The cars can be fitted with scaled-down goalposts for place-kicking contests,and blocking sled frames attach to the rear for half-time Bug races.

You try to think of everything, Gallagher says.

The cars cruise with their helmets on. The headgear was to be repaintedin logos and colors appropriate for the scheduled appearance Saturday atthe Florida State-North Carolina football game.

He's now working on the basketball cars in John Sarratt's Central Pointwelding shop.

It's grassroots marketing, Gallagher said. It's a mobilebasketball court they can take into cities. They do a lot of Boys and GirlsClubs.

Gallagher, 30, was an all-conference basketball player at Medford HighSchool, where Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman had coached football and trackbefore moving on to the University of Oregon.

Gallagher won some small-college basketball scholarships, but he alsolanded at the University of Oregon.

He returned to Medford during the summers to learn to cut and weld steelsculptures in Sarratt's shop. After graduation, he settled his businessin Portland, sculpting tables and beds and decorative items for catalogsand galleries (including Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland). A commissionedmetal sculpture is at the corner of Olive and Broadway in Eugene.

He married the former Gretchen Stark of Medford.

Gallagher first worked with Nike to decorate All-Star Game promotionaltrailers last winter.

The Volkswagens were stripped of their interiors and outfitted with newengines and drive trains. The football bugs are upholstered with stripedAstroturf with laced football seats.

K&K Upholstery did a terrific job, Gallagher said. Theywill be doing basketball shoe seats in the other Bugs.

We've been able to find people here in the valley who could dothe detail work, said Duane Lowenberg of Medford. It's veryexacting work.

Lowenberg provided the carpentry for the wooden accessories.

Tommy Carr of Carr's Auto Body painted the nubbly orange design on thebasketball vehicles -- about 30,000 dots per vehicle, said Gallagher. Thegraphics were done at Cantel.

Sarratt fitted the welding into his full schedule of work for Rogue Aggregatesand other industrial customers.

The basketball Bugs are lined inside with the re-ground rubber of recycledbasketball shoes. Along with a full-sized hoop on the trailer, a kid-heighthoop can be fitted into the trunk. The bumpers are built like sections ofrim, with curly metalwork where the nets would be looped.

The project isn't all welding and jump shots; two months of meetingswent into the planning of the Bug fleet followed by two months of fabrication.

They hired me for my designs, and I get a lot of freedom,Gallagher said. It's fun to work with Nike. I get to work with artand with sports. It's the best of all worlds.

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Rogue Valley catches the Nike Bug