Lots of kids and adults turned out on sunny Saturday to officially christen the new outdoor basketball courts near the Wellesley High School track/football field.
Wellesley Youth Basketball orchestrated games and activities for those who attended. The courts, which had been replaced by a parking lot during the building of the new high school, are now back and better than ever thanks to the work of recreation, Natural Resources Commission, the town engineer and other town officials. (Photos via Linda Chow)
Among those in attendance and happy to see the new courts in use was Paul Cloonan, whose dad — still a Wellesley resident — spearheaded the building of the original court.
The elder Cloonan, whose grandson also took part in the opening celebration, shared some of his memories of the original court development with me via email (he didn’t have any photos of the old court handy…if anyone does and wants to share them with us, please email us here: [email protected]).
“Myself and a small group of other Wellesley parents that had children involved in basketball programs heard in 1988 that the Town was contemplating building a new basketball court. I believe that the estimated cost for the court would be $10,000, At that time there were no decent outdoor basketball courts in Town. We approached Town officials and indicated to them that we would raise an additional $10,000 so that the Town could construct 2 courts side by side. The town officials agreed to this plan and we formed a non- profit corporation called the Wellesley Basketball Association to begin our fundraising.”
Cloonan, who ran the CYO basketball program at St. Paul’s for years, says residents were generally supportive of the effort, and Roche Bros., made a significant contribution as well, enabling the group to hit its $10K goal.
Originally, the town planned to build the courts on a site at the high school where an outdoor hockey rink once stood. But things started to go south during Cloonan’s presentation at Town Meeting, where some neighbors and abutters spoke out against the courts, suggesting that there would be boozing and carousing at the site.
“The mistake we made was not consulting with the neighbors before the meeting. It is very difficult to accomplish anything in Wellesley if the neighbors do not approve of the project,” Cloonan said. Certainly, the same is true today.
Despite the opposition, Town Meeting approved the construction of the courts (here’s a link to an old Townsman article on the courts being okayed), but the location was changed to where the courts currently stand. That resulted in increased costs, however, so additional funds were raised. In fact, some of those living near the old hockey rink agreed to chip in to help fund construction in the new location. Call it a NIMBY tax.
Cloonan says that what he thought would be a 6-month project for him turned into a 2-year one. “The completed courts were worth the effort we put into it [adult leagues were quite active back then]. The town’s DPW did a great job in constructing the courts.”
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