Most Viewed Stories
Suns help highlight new basketball court
BY ROB WEILER
SUN STAFF WRITER
Training camp for the Phoenix Suns is still a couple months away. High school basketball tryouts are even further down the calendar.
But at Winsor Rotary Park, basketball is now a yearlong sport.
The newest addition to the Yuma Parks and Recreation Department was unveiled on Tuesday by the community members and corporate sponsors who transformed the section of grass into a hoops heaven.
“We're here. We're finally here,” Cyril Jr. Atherton, the brainchild of the court, said prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Atherton, Ray Ochoa and Mark Ericson headed the Hoops Project committee that partnered with the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Public Serivce Co. to donate the $60,000 needed to build the court.
“To be able to do something for the community, to start it and to see it to the end, has been incredible,” said Atherton of his 18-month mission. “We were having some challenges raising the money we needed to raise to start the project. I knew we had to go to an organization to help us out, and they came through.”
This is the seventh court built or refurbished by the Suns and APS in Arizona as part of its Power Players program. Representatives from both organizations were on hand for the event, including Phoenix broadcaster Tom Leander, NBA slam dunk champion and former Sun Cedric Ceballos and The Gorilla mascot.
The court is also the handiwork of residents and volunteer groups who pitched in their time and talents. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ronald Neal led a four-man crew from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 that did all the groundwork preparation for the facility over a three-day period.
“The first thing I did when we were done was I grabbed a basketball and laid it down, and it didn't run off,” Neal said. “ We'd get here early in the morning about 5 o'clock to beat the heat and all the people, but as you can see it turned out real well.”
While the heat may detract many of the city's residents from playing outdoor basketball, 13-year-old Isaiah Brown said he and his friends plan to be frequent visitors.
“We didn't do anything before at the park. We'd usually just hang out and sit down and talk,” Brown said. “If you really love basketball, you'll be out here.”
Neal, a volunteer coach for the Team Heat youth basketball club team, lives two blocks from the park and brought his two sons out to participate in the evening's 3-point shootout. He said he hopes teams can utilize the court for practice and the city will organize basketball tournaments.
“There's not many community basketball courts around Yuma, so for this neighborhood it's great to give the kids something to do here,” Neal said. “As long as we host things out here and involve the community it's something everyone can appreciate, but there has to be a sense of ownership.”
Yuma Parks and Recreation maintains courts at three other parks (Carver, Kennedy and Ocotillo) and will lock up the facility as part of its nightly 11 p.m. closures. Four light posts will accompany the court before the end of the month to allow for nighttime play until 10 p.m.
“The city will get some signs up and we'll get some bike racks here so people know the bikes don't come inside,” Atherton said. “It's still going to be a community effort. I'll be out here to make sure this is used for basketball, but if people are jogging and see that it's not being used properly, address it.”