After years of anticipation, the Buckley Sports Court is finally ready for swish-ness.
A group of local kids cut the ribbon on the new court June 6, marking its official opening to the public for basketball and pickleball games.
And just in time for summer break: June 15 is the last day of school for White River High School students.
The court, located next to the youth center and skate park at the intersection of Jefferson Ave and S River Avenue, features a standard-size basketball court and a smaller, separate court, which is ADA-complaint and includes an adjustable hoop. A pickleball court can be set up at the main court. A tall fence separates the court from the traffic on SR 410.
Of course, the court features the logo of the White River Hornets.
“I think this is great,” said Justin Hays, a Perkins Prairie neighborhood resident visiting the court with his daughter Hayley. “It gives the kids something to do, another activity, another outlet. I think it’s kind of a huge thing. … I’m sure people will want to get regular games going. I think it’s a great way for the kids to come out and play.”
Mayor Beau Burkett thanked the many groups who made the sports court a reality: The Buckley Youth Advisory Board, which facilitated, fundraised and supported the the project; community members, businesses and organizations who supported the court by buying bricks; city staff who consulted with local youth to get the court right; current and former city council members and former mayor Pat Johnson for keeping the project alive; and Buckley Foods for donating food for the celebration.
“The kids are so excited,” Burkett told the Courier-Herald. “It’s awesome to see them out here. They were trying to be out there before the lines were even painted. They just wanted to play.”
The project has been on the city’s radar for nearly a decade. It was listed on Buckley’s 2015 Parks and Recreation plan, and originally, the city had hoped to have the court open by the end of 2021.
But supply chain and building material cost woes felt across municipalities in the U.S. and nasty weather delayed the court’s finish. One thing that did help was a $75,000 recreation grant, secured two years ago from the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO).
In March last year, the city council signed off on a trimmed-down redesign of the court after eye-popping bid prices forced them to trim down their more ambitious earlier design, which would have included bleachers and more painting on the court.
City administrator Courtney Brunell gave “a big thanks” to RCO for funding the project and said she was blown away by the participation the court had already seen prior to its grand opening, including a large free-throw youth competition and pickleball and basketball play.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It shows there’s a need in the community. … Active recreation is something that came up a lot during our goal-setting earlier retreat this year.”
That area of town is quickly becoming the outdoor recreation heart of Buckley. Along with the existing skateboard park, youth activities center and new sports court, Brunell said that a local eagle scouts troop is considering the block for a pit to play “gaga ball,” a game similar to dodgeball. The city council was scheduled to hold a public hearing during their June 13 meeting on whether to temporarily close, or vacate Jefferson Avenue and open the space up even more, Brunell said. (That meeting occurred after this edition’s print deadline.)
The court is something the city was hungry for, Burkett said. The project was delayed most recently due to weather – the city hadn’t striped the park before last fall, and by then “we were stuck,” he said, waiting for three consistent nice days where the city could actually finish the work.
“This is something we should have done in the past, and we’re finally catching up to it,” he said. “I’m just very glad to see it open. It’s really taken a long time, so it’s nice that it’s finally completed.”
Burkett said that the city and council will also discuss putting a splash park in the area, situated so that parents and guardians could watch their splashing, skating and ball-playing kids all on that same block.