Refurbished Basketball Court Excites Youngsters, Adults

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By Tim Farley

Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins doesn’t give an inch to opposing NBA players, but last week “Perk” was giving his time and energy to a group of Oklahoma City children.

Perkins was joined by teammate Thabo Sefolosha at Pitts Park Community Center in northeast Oklahoma City as Thunder, Sprite and city officials dedicated a refurbished basketball court. After a few speeches and the official ribbon-cutting, a large group of youngsters began shooting hoops with the two NBA stars.

As part of the $21,000 renovation sponsored by the Thunder Cares Foundation and the Sprite Spark Parks Project, the community center now has a new Thunder blue court with Thunder and NBA logos, plus new backboards, goals, benches and other improvements.

Perkins said he was pleased to participate in the dedication ceremony.

“It’s always a pleasure to see kids with smiles on their faces. We enjoy giving back to the community, and we try to do everything we can to keep kids out of trouble,” he said.

Reflecting on his childhood and his early playing days, Perkins said, “If I had a court like this when I was a kid, you would never have got me out of there. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet NBA players. If we do one thing to save one or two lives, then it’s worth it.”

Joining the players were four Thunder Girls, the Thunder drummers and several elected officials, including Oklahoma City Councilmen Skip Kelly and Gary Marrs, state Rep. Anastasia Pittman and state Senators David Holt, Al McAffery and Connie Johnson.

Thunder and Sprite officials had specific criteria for the park that was chosen, Jennifer McClintock, Oklahoma City parks and recreation spokeswoman, said.

“They wanted it in a neighborhood and it needed to be visible to the surrounding community. They ultimately chose this one,” she said.

This was not the first time the Thunder organization has sponsored a basketball court refurbishing. The team and its Thunder Cares Foundation completed the outdoor court at the Police Athletic League in south Oklahoma City and the indoor court at the City Rescue Mission. Both courts received the same facelift as Pitts Park.

“It’s our honor and pleasure to participate in this project, bringing a new basketball experience to the Pitts Park neighborhood,” Dan Mahoney, Thunder vice president of community relations, said. “We enjoy the opportunity to further the love of basketball and physical fitness in Oklahoma City. We especially thank Sprite for its commitment to the community.”

Pitts Park is one of more than 50 courts Sprite will refurbish across the nation this year. The Sprite Spark Parks Project provides grants that pay to refurbish rims, backboards, lights, benches and playing surfaces. In 2012, Sprite will invest more than $2 million to construct, refurbish and refresh more than 150 neighborhood parks, athletic fields, playgrounds and basketball courts.

“The mission of the Sprite Spark Parks Project is to positively impact the Oklahoma community and refresh neighborhood basketball courts so youth can express their uncontainable moves in a safe, public space, said Rickey Truelove, vice president of marketing at Great Plains Coca-Cola. “A public park is one of the best places for kids and teens to go to be physically active, improve their health and wellness and have fun.”


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