Basketball to resurface after long absence at park

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette A Williamsport streets and parks department crew pours concrete for the new basketball hoop poles at Memorial Park on Wednesday morning.

The foundation for outdoor basketball at Memorial Park was laid Wednesday, ending a nearly five-year hiatus since the hoops removal relating to drug activities, and the mayor’s decision to replace them with pickleball and children’s activities.

On Wednesday, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana had the city streets and parks department employees pour and shovel concrete into dug holes where the metal poles will be installed in preparation for rims.

“Basketball will soon be played again at these courts,” Campana said, but in defiance of City Council’s suggestion that reinstallation hold off until discussion with city recreation commission, which meets 4 p.m. Monday.

At the site, it was a wind-whipped day, as about a half dozen men shoveled concrete they took in wheelbarrows from the chute of a truck.

They joked how they were salting streets Tuesday and now putting in the hoops a day later. Expect about a week for the concrete to cure and harden, according to a crew foreman.

Councilman Randall J. Allison warned the faster-paced basketball might not be a good mix with those using pickleball.

Another former user of the basketball courts told the Sun-Gazette, it is ill-advised to put the courts next to each other.

“I would not do that, because the pickleball courts are too close and would upset people playing,” said

Zachariah Wells, 33, who played basketball there for years. “I wouldn’t open the basketball courts up because they are too close to the pool and the kid’s playground, too.”

Allison also is concerned about not having recreation officials involved in a city-owned facility. He said clearances and other legal entanglements need to be assured before moving ahead.

Another councilman said he was upset with possible use of taxpayer dollars on recreation in a time when budgetary restraint is needed. The city adopted its 2019 budget on Dec. 13 with a tax increase and fewer city employees, including police.

The court removal was “tone-deaf” to the community’s expressed needs at the time, and without a plan this time, said Councilman Derek Slaughter, in a scathing assessment of what’s transpired without recreation commission review, recommendation or knowledge.

Attempts to locate a cost of materials and labor was not immediately successful.

Later in the day, Campana assured taxpayers the materials were kept since they were removed and the cost of the concrete will be a part of streets and parks budget.

Campana has said volunteers will help monitor for suspicious activities. He dubbed them the, “Memorial Park Committee.”

Members include: Joanna Walker, Nayo Brown, Carl Nolan, Irish Griffin, John Manno, Sam Washington, Darrick Rizzo, Rick Wyatt, Ron Johnson and Bob Brague Jr.

Council President Jonathan Williamson has invited each one to a meeting to thank them for their promise to ensure the park remains a safe and serene location.