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Pickleball and Hoops. Can They Coexist?

Stop the presses. The basketball hoops are coming back to Memorial Park. Props to Mayor Campana and his staff for making this happen. Wait. Did I just say that?

OK, I have been very critical of Gabe and his “recreational” decisions in the past. I chimed in on the Williamsport Outlaws, a short-lived outdoor minor league team that turned out to be a bust several winters back. I also took a stance on the funding to improve Historic Bowman Field for the MLB Classic. A lot of money went to this project, and our local high school ball teams weren’t allowed a chance. Then there was that time I talked about the future of Elm Park. The jury is still out, but last I heard the administration was still in talks with a developer named Moonlight Graham. Keep you posted.

Gabe Campana is a good dude, and I believe his heart is in the right place. Yes. He has been under a lot of stress of late. Give the poor guy a chance. Home rule? Charter Commission? Dude? My man brought us Kohls. City Council is all over him by criticizing every move. Sure, Williamsport is experiencing some major financial difficulties, and Gabe has to answer several questions about Grafius Run. Throw in the levee and a shrinking tax base. Campana is also 0 for 3 with his police chiefs just this past month.

The basketball courts were removed five years ago as Gabe thought this would help detour the gangs. Drug use, loitering, and an increase in crime near Memorial were also factors. I am serious. This was an extremely controversial move, but to Gabe’s credit he held his ground and never backed down. He then introduced us to the great game of PICKLEBALL and other children’s games. I personally haven’t seen anyone actually playing this mini-tennis, but I have seen pictures. Kids prefer Fortnite to Four Square. Gabe’s plan worked to perfection — now no one uses the park.

“After much consideration and the willingness of community leaders to form a Memorial Park Coalition, I have instructed Streets and Parks personnel to install a full basketball court next to the much-used pickleball courts,” Gabe explained. ” I believe by working together, this section of Memorial will showcase basketball for youth, pickleball for all, and an improved playground for children. All three areas can coexist in a fun and safe recreational setting.” Complete silence.

Mr. Campana went against Council’s wishes and began pouring concrete right away. They have since laid the foundations without ever meeting with the City’s Recreation Commission. So what? Council questioned Gabe and expressed many other concerns. Who is on this Memorial Park Coalition, and do they have their clearances? What is their role and will they have police reporting powers? What a mess. Several members of the Memorial Park Coalition had no knowledge they were even on this new committee. It was absolute bedlam. Nobody knows what the heck is going on.

Others questioned how this project was being funded. The city already adopted their 2019 budget on December 13th with an increase in taxes. We cut several positions and eliminated a great deal, but now we have monies to bring back basketball? Another believed the faster-paced basketball might not be a good fit with those playing pickleball. I totally understand this councilman’s concern. Can you picture an older man retrieving a loose pickle during a heated pickup game?

I am all in favor of bringing basketball back to Memorial Park. I will also admit that I was very disappointed in Mr. Campana when he removed them five years ago as part of his drug and gang reduction policy. But kudos to him on his staff for realizing they made a mistake. The hoops will be back sometime very soon. I am just hoping that basketball and pickleball can coexist. To be continued. Cheers.

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