MERIDEN — A neighborhood police officer and others are hoping to transform two underused tennis courts on Lewis Avenue into a temporary basketball court.
Police Officer Dave D’Onofrio said since there are a limited number of outdoor basketball courts kids often play in the street and sometimes get in trouble. He is suggesting two of the tennis courts across from Columbus Park on Lewis Avenue be converted into a basketball court, leaving two tennis courts.
“The tennis courts aren’t really used at all,” said D’ Onofrio.
Often families are riding bikes and playing other games on the tennis courts, he said. The courts are already gated and fenced in and would provide a safe place for basketball.
“The kids need things to do to keep them out of places where they shouldn’t be,” D’Onofrio said.
The hoop would be temporary and open from dawn to dusk, D’Onofrio said. He wants to make sure the court is respected and taken care of before anything permanent is done.
“I think the kids are going to enjoy it,” he said.
D’Onofrio said most people in the neighborhood think it’s a good idea.
Council of Neighborhoods President Holly Wills was approached by D’Onofrio earlier this year and the two have been talking about the basketball initiative.
“We’re hoping the courts go in,” she said. “We’re going to run it like a pilot program...if they are respected, if they’re taken care of, we’ll make them permanent.”
Wills, like D’Onofrio, said she doesn’t see the tennis courts used much.
City Councilor Steve Iovanna, who represents Area 1, said he supports the basketball court idea.
“We have to give kids the opportunity to do something constructive,” he said.
The tennis courts, along with Field 3 at Columbus Park, were also discussed as a possible new location for the Coe Avenue skateboard park, which was displaced earlier this month by the renovations to Platt High School. City officials said they could not find a suitable new location for the park and the equipment was recently placed into storage.
City Councilor Kevin Scarpati told the Record-Journal this month he was “not thrilled” the park was going into storage and suggested either Field 3 or the tennis courts across Lewis Avenue as potential sites.
“Let’s not take all four, but maybe two of the four,” Scarpati had said of the tennis courts. “There’s a paved area there.”
He said both places are visible from the street and far away from neighborhoods. Police drive by on a regular basis and can patrol the area.
“Those are two ideal locations,” he said.
For now the basketball hoop initiative has been put on hold, according to City Councilor Miguel Castro, who also represents Area 1, so Castro can talk to neighbors and gauge their reaction to the courts.