Thinking about the lack of outdoor basketball courts, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about a discussion a friend and I had about what we perceive as a lack of decent outdoor basketball courts. Perhaps we aren’t the only ones who think this is an issue. Here are the thoughts of one writer in Burlington, North Carolina:

One thing I’ve noticed as an adult is that there are fewer outdoor courts than there used to be. There’s not a single one in my neighborhood, which does have a pool, tennis courts, fields, walking trails, a lake and a playground. Those portable goals you find along streets in the suburbs don’t count.

I don’t know if residential developers at some point came to see basketball courts as hotbeds for malfeasance, but I think it’s ridiculous that in the middle of one of the three-most basketball-crazed states in the Union I can’t walk to a basketball court from my house.

Here is another example from a writer in Lima, Ohio, though he seems to be referring also to basketball hoops in driveways:

Taking my game to Bradfield was not exactly breaking down a barrier, but it was a difficult step for a 15 year old looking for the best competition in the city. I sat on the sidelines for two days before one of the older players, Cleo Vaughn, picked me for his team. Vaughn, whose own athletic odyssey was stuff of dreams, took me under his wing and I owe much of my own emergence as a player to his guidance. Cleo began picking me up in his car and taking me to courts all over the city. Each one of these basketball courts was unique and presented its own challenges.

Whittier playground offered great full-court games with a colorful and vocal crowd of onlookers but if you lost, you were forced to wait for hours because there were so many young players waiting their turn. The most physical games could be found at Mizpah Mission in the deep south end. There was only a single basket there at the time, but those three-on-three games were the most intense in the city. You could always find a great game at Northside playground but the courts were so long it felt like you had run a marathon when the game ended. And there were many other great outdoor venues, all unique in their own design and makeup.

But my favorite courts remained the outdoor courts at Bradfield Center and the most memorable times were the nights that the flame from the Standard Oil Refinery was turned up full blast and the light it shed was powerful enough to allow us to play late into the evenings and avoid the heat of midday.

Both of these stories talk about particular places and are also tinged with nostalgia. These columnists have good memories of playing on outdoor courts and now see fewer young adults playing on outside courts. The first writer suggests developers may not be interested in building courts while the second suggests kids grow up playing indoors in organized sports rather than free-wheeling games in driveways or neighborhood parks.

Of course, this is anecdotal evidence and these two columnists disagree about the cause of this.

The problem may not just be limited to the United States: here is an online petition signed by 554 people asking for at least one nice outdoor basketball court in all Australian cities:

Kids around Australia, as well as teenagers and young adults, always email us (MSF) and tell us that the new highschool court in their area is closed after school hours… so what’s the point of having a facility when the local youth can’t use it to it’s full potential? Where’s the night lights? Where’s the support for the people who want to play sports instead of hanging out with friends at nightclubs or at home playing video games? not just at night though, we’re talking about during the day also. The youth do not have enough positive recreational facilities to unite at. And if there are a few, the basketball courts are usually ALWAYS the cheapest and worst quality that end up steering kids away. Fact.

Our proposition; on behalf of millions of other Australians; build ONE Superior outdoor basketball court in each Australian City… central to all suburbs. Close to transport. Secure and Safe. Night lights. Open 24 hours. The highest standard of ring systems and surface. And then you will all see; the Domino Effect. These superior outdoor courts will become populated with positivity and energy; believe it. And once it succeeds in one community, other communities and councils will follow in these footsteps.

It is interesting that this petition tries to flip Reason #1 for fewer basketball courts (they create more problems with the people they attract) on its head by suggesting these courts are actually helpful in combating other social problems. If kids play on outdoor courts, they are not just sitting around playing video games and they are not getting into more active trouble elsewhere. If this argument is correct, could this then a NIMBY issue where immediate neighbors don’t want the basketball courts even though the courts would benefit society as a whole? If this is what happens, the neighbors win out, courts can’t be built near where people actually live, and fewer communities decide to build outdoor courts overall. Parks themselves, basketball courts or not, can become NIMBY sites as their public space threatens nearby public space.

(At least New York City claims to have plenty of outdoor courts: “There are hundreds of outdoor courts in New York City. In the basketball capital of the world, it’s possible to find a game within walking distance of any location. Recreation Centers in all five boroughs have indoor courts as well.”)

7 thoughts on “Thinking about the lack of outdoor basketball courts, Part 2

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