Basketball courts are back at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis
The sound of sneakers sliding across wet pavement permeated the air Wednesday at Tower Grove Park in south-central St. Louis.
There was trash talk, pump faking and glorious three-point shooting — a good old pickup game of basketball.
But it’s been more than three decades since Tower Grove Park, the second-largest park in the city, held space for the game. Two hundred people showed up on Oct. 20 for the unveiling of the basketball courts in a ribbon-cutting, said Bill Reininger, executive director of Tower Grove Park.
The courts had been highly anticipated since St. Louisans began pushing for them in 2017.
Construction fencing that blocked the courts for four months was removed last Friday, Reininger said. Seventy kids who had signed up to play clinical basketball focused on building skill sets including dribbling, shooting and general ball handling.
College players were also there to help. Reininger said the courts are the size of high school basketball courts and were created by SWT Design.
“As soon as [the construction fence] came down, there were people on the courts,” Reininger said. “It really speaks to how much the community is excited and wanted to have courts in the park.”
Painted in vibrant blue and gray colors and with hoops on both ends, two twin concrete basketball courts now sit side by side at the park near the intersection of Arsenal Street and Bent Avenue.
He said the ground is less likely to crack and will last longer since it’s made with post-tension concrete, as opposed to asphalt, which tends to shift and requires more maintenance in the long run.
Play hard, ball harder
The spotty rain and evasive sun Wednesday afternoon didn’t keep people from using the courts, five days after their opening. Four guys bragged about whose game was best while playing defensive and offensive positions.
Twelve-year-old Dobie Headerick, of Tower Grove South, joked about the other guys being bigger after the ball was stolen from him.
Dobie was the youngest of the group but was determined to hold his weight, despite being tossed a bit by the older players.
“That’s a technical!” he shouted.
He said later that he had been waiting months for the courts to be opened. He pointed out an electric water fountain that is also new. “I’m surprised there’s not more people out here,” Dobie said. “They should have put lights up out here, though, because of how dark it gets.”
Josiah Davis, 21, of south St. Louis eventually left the game and watched the others play while he took a break.
“This is my fourth time coming here in the past three days,” Davis said. He said he’s been showing up and playing basketball with whoever is already on the court. It was his first time meeting the guys he played with Wednesday, he said.
“And I actually didn’t know the courts were coming here,” Davis said. “I found out about them through a friend a couple days ago. They’re nice.”
Basketball players from the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ recreational team held practice on the courts Wednesday. The park is a half-mile closer to home than Tiffany Park, where they usually practice, said Dustin Foss, 36, of Tower Grove East.
“That’s why we’re here in the rain, because we got to get in where we fit in,” Foss said. Less than one-third of St. Louis’ 108 public parks are equipped with basketball courts. St. Louis Public Radio’s Miya Norfleet previously reported on why some city parks haven’t seen basketball courts — some community members blame it on a history of racism.
Reininger said roughly $1 million was donated for the restoration of the courts at Tower Grove. The Land and Water Conservation Fund ultimately provided $312,000, and the rest of the funding came from the Common Ground Campaign, community groups and individual donors.
The park’s previous courts were removed 30 years ago due to poor pavement conditions, Reininger said.
Plans are still in the works for the largest park in the city, Forest Park, to see its first-ever basketball courts. The park already has other sports facilities, with golf and ice skating among them.
It is located about two miles north of Tower Grove.