A new Community Recreation Complex Basketball Court was a cause for celebration Friday afternoon.
The new basketball court, located at 549 Yonge St., in one of Barrie Housing’s properties, has been funded by the City of Barrie recreation and sport community grant program, noted the organization’s CEO Mary Anne Denny-Lusk.
“During COVID, a lot of our communities were locked down and people weren’t getting out as much. We really focused this year with a lot of community events," she said. "Throughout the summer, we had some barbecues and ice-cream socials, but what we really wanted to pay attention to was that age group — pre-teens and teens — where a lot of our programming and events just didn’t target.
"We thought a basketball court was a great place,” Denny-Lusk told BarrieToday prior to the official ribbon-cutting. “We have seen a lot of kids in our community playing in the parking lots and trying to maneuvre around cars, and it just seemed like a no-brainer for us to put this in and allow them a place near home to make their own.”
Dan Bell, who is the manager of business services with the city’s recreation and culture services department, told BarrieToday the funding for the court — along with several other projects — is the result of a city council directive put in place two years ago.
“In late 2020, city council determined there was a need in the community for this type of funding, as they had organizations ask for funding for this kind of thing, (but) didn't really have access to that so they charged our department with developing a grant opportunity for organizations to apply for,” he said. “We had 17 applications for our inaugural year and we were able to issue funding to 12 of them.”
Barrie Housing applied for funding for several projects, Bell noted, adding the program was able to provide the organization with $90,000 to help fund several projects around the city.
“This is awesome because the purpose of the grant was to provide the opportunity to fund projects such as this that benefit the overall health and well-being of residents of the city, so seeing this come to fruition is a really great thing for the city," Bell added.
The court is constructed out of an engineered plastic that provides players with a lot of give, and is easier on the body than playing on typical concrete or asphalt surfaces, said Sport Court project co-ordinator Mike Jokinen.
“We build a lot of courts, but when we can do one as part of a bigger picture project it’s a good feeling," he added.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman came prepared to shoot some hoops — and prepared to get his “butt kicked.” But before that happened, he told BarrieToday that as the city grows, it’s even more important to put things close to where people live.
“I am always somebody that believes the proof is in how many people use it, and there’ve already been people out here today even before it’s open,” the mayor said. “This project was made possible through a new program that this council created — a community grants program — to do exactly this: small projects like a court, like a park improvement, in different areas of the city… and I think it’s one of those things where small things can make a big difference."
With 964 units housing approximately 3,000 tenants, Denny-Lusk said Barrie Housing received grant funding for three basketball courts and a soccer pitch.
“Based on the demographics, we have put them where they’re needed. … My staff have gone above and beyond to get this up and running. It’s great to see the community coming out and excited to play on the court and be part of the community in general. We know there are a lot of kids excited to come off of the school buses and come down and play.”