The advantages of indoor and outdoor basketball courts are quite obvious.
Indoor basketball courts, which are generally more expensive to build and maintain than outdoor courts, ensure the game will be played rain or shine.
There are no pests to fear, except perhaps an overzealous fan or an incompetent referee.
Good interior lighting allows players to deliver more accurately when blocking, passing, stealing and shooting.
Even better, the likelihood of destroying fancy and expensive sneakers is reduced by indoor courts which are usually made of hardwood or resilient flooring. (Although some of us are still puzzled by the explosion of former Duke player Zion Williamson’s shoe during the Duke vs. North Carolina game in February 2019.)
When comparing outdoor courts, the overwhelming advantage once was just that – being outside. Additional benefits included fresh air, more space, less expensive to set up and maintain, free for fans and passers-by, and memories meant to last.
Of course, the main difference between indoor and outdoor basketball courts is the weather, and in Richmond trying to play a quick game of pickup in the neighborhood park or school field quickly becomes a game of chance.
The changing climate that now gives us scorching summers and mild to bitter winters, mixed with unexpected thunderstorms, demands that planned outdoor activities of all kinds have “bad weather” save dates.
We were led to consider all of the above when reading the plans for the new George Wythe High School in the South End of Richmond. On June 28, approximately 60 people attended the first of four meetings to gather public feedback and suggestions on the new school, which will be designed by RRMM Architects. The construction of the school itself is over $140 million, according to previous reports from the Richmond Free Press. Completion is expected by 2024 or 2025.
During the meeting, Duane Harver, president and CEO of RRMM’S, walked the audience through each piece of the rendering project, wrote Richmond Free Press reporter Holly Rodriguez. A circular administration building, secure entrances and a cafeteria rather than the existing two featured in Mr. Harver’s design.
Members of the public asked about sustainability, storage, parking and green spaces. Overall, the article paints a solid record of the encounter with few surprises given the time it took for plans for the new high school to come to fruition.
However, a comment from football and athletics coach Jimmy Hart got us thinking.
Noting that conversations should be held with teachers, staff and others who work directly with students, Hart asked if an athletics area would be included. He also said that installing an outdoor basketball court was not a good idea.
“People in the community had previously used the outdoor basketball court, left trash and destroyed the property,” he reportedly said in the article.
If Mr. Hart’s remarks about the basketball courts are true and compel the school administration to follow his advice, it’s a sad reality for a school district and neighborhood already located in a food desert where wealth is weak and often hopeless. And let’s not forget the reality of how neighborhood school basketball courts and other facilities are often havens for quick pick-up games and quick friendships that last a lifetime.
A smart move is to install indoor and outdoor basketball courts, and adding a fifth public meeting to discuss our suggestion might be necessary.
An indoor court will allow student-athletes to practice and perfect their games in a state-of-the-art facility with climate-controlled settings, proper flooring, lighting, and seating.
The installation of an outdoor basketball court (or courts—yes, plural), in addition to the aforementioned benefits, informs the community that despite the real or perceived behaviors of some who do or do not live in the Wythe School District , there is trust.
With that trust will come accountability, and THEY, as caretakers, residents, staff, students, and taxpayers, must ensure that litter, vandalism, and other misguided acts do not destroy what has taken so long to build.