Basketball courts for park OK'd after three-hour council debate

Gareth Anstess, 10, wore a LeBron James jersey as he stood before city council Monday night to show his support of a city plan to build two new basketball courts in a downtown park.

"I love basketball," Anstess told council, adding he has been shooting hoops since he was three years old. "I go on Sundays to the oldtimers' league and Thursdays to the men's league.

"Unlike hockey or lacrosse, you don't need like $200 worth of equipment, you just need a ball and shoes."

Council approved the plan to build the courts at the Simcoe and Bethune streets park after listening to delegations from the community for about three hours and discussing the issue for more than an hour.

About 30 people stood up in the gallery to indicate their support for the project. On the other side, six residents stood up to show council they opposed the construction of two basketball courts in the park.

Dr. Doug Lukinuk, a local chiropractor, took his vision for two, new top-of-the-line basketball courts to the arenas, parks and recreation committee in 2008 with a commitment to fundraise in the community to pay for part of the project.

The city got $140,000 from the provincial and federal governments for the basketball courts last year and held public consultation meetings before working out the final details for the project.

In addition to the money from the provincial and federal governments, the city put aside $50,000 for the project in the 2009 budget and Lukinuk has raised $20,000 {through community donations.

The two courts would be next to each other at the southeast corner of the park, in the current location of a playground. The playground would be relocated to the west end of the park, next to Stewart St.

It's too intense for the size of the neighbourhood park, Simcoe St. resident Kristine Keating said.

"We're creating a concrete jungle. Peterborough is developing into one of the bleakest downtowns," she said. "We're deeply troubled with the ease you're willing to pave over limited green downtown area.... The destruction of this green space has been barely given a moment's care or thought."

Keating said a woman who used the YWCA shelter next to the park told her that having young men playing basketball near the facility doesn't allow women to feel safe at the shelter.

George Mitchell told council he has helped organize the Old Boys' Basketball League and a spring league for men.

"Gym space is a premium, it is maxed out in the city," he said. "There needs to be outdoor courts and not just one or two but many, and especially in the downtown core.... It will be used. It will be used very, very well."

Hamilton St. resident Paul Curtis described the poor condition of many of the outdoor basketball courts in the city.

"There is really no suitable place to play basketball," he said. "There is a need for two courts.... A downtown location is the optimal spot for these courts."

Several of the neighbourhood residents who argued against building two courts in the park suggested that the courts should be built at James Stephenson Park, at Burnham and Hunter streets.

James Stephenson Park is outside of the preferred downtown core for the courts, it already has basketball courts that are used and in good condition and it's already a busy site with baseball and softball, staff stated in a report.

The Simcoe and Bethune streets park is underutilized, Town Ward Coun. Ann Farquharson said, supporting the project.

"This is going to be a huge asset for the downtown. This is going to be a huge asset for the city," she said. "Sports are such a benefit for the young people."

City facilities and special projects manager Mary Gallop said two-thirds of the park will remain as green space.

Construction is slated to begin in the spring and be finished sometime this summer.

It's a win-win for the neighbourhood, Coun. Bob Hall said.

"The redevelopment of that whole area is a project in motion currently and I think this is one significant piece," he said.

Other items approved by council Monday night include:

* Hiring Martel and Sons for $631,766 plus tax without going through a competitive bid process to provide the granite and stonework for the Wall of Honour veterans memorial -- approved without discussion.

* An all-inclusive wage and benefit increase of 2% on Jan. 1, 2010, 2.25% on Jan. 1 next year and 2.25% on Jan. 1, 2012 for CUPE Local 504 members, which would cost property taxpayers an additional $148,000 this year -- approved without discussion.

* Directing city staff to try to find a buyer for the Peterborough lawn bowling clubhouse at McDonnel St. and Monaghan Rd. that would reuse the building and preserve its heritage values.

SOURCE: BRENDAN WEDLEY , EXAMINER MUNICIPAL WRITER

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Crystal Edwards

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CENTURY 21 United Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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