Basketball courts

I’ve shot hoops at over 30 basketball courts in Ann Arbor Park. Here are 5 takeaways.

ANN ARBOR, MI – I left this summer to reconnect with an old love: basketball.

I lived and breathed the sport when I was younger, spending countless hours playing anywhere there was a hoop, but I had mostly put that hobby aside in recent years.

Getting the ball back was great. I was pretty rusty at first, but day after day I got my kick back, reveling in that familiar old sound, and it was good exercise.

A ball lies along the Baxter Park basketball court in Ann Arbor on August 31, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

I quickly committed to playing on the more than 30 basketball courts in Ann Arbor parks before the summer was over, and over the course of several weeks I did, venturing to places picturesque like Mary Beth Doyle Park which I had visited several times before and other more obscure ones which I had to look up on a map. It helped that the city website listed them all.

It was supposed to be just fun, an adventure to experience each terrain and see different parts of my city, but I soon found that the terrain conditions varied greatly and many left a lot to be desired, so I went into reporter mode and I started taking notes.

Here are five takeaways:

1. Many courts need renovation

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

Vegetation grows through pavement cracks at Baxter Park basketball court in Ann Arbor on August 31, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

Perhaps the city has spoiled us by resurfacing a handful of courts in recent years, showing how nice a modern park basketball court can be with a smooth blue/green surface similar to a tennis court. The Hunt Park Court is an example.

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

Ann Arbor’s Hunt Park basketball court, among the handful of slick basketball courts in city parks, September 6, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

But it’s a day and night contrast when visiting many of the city’s older courts.

Others had rougher, coarser, cracked, and uneven pavement surfaces, some with vegetation growing through, which made dribbling more difficult and less safe or enjoyable to play. And some, like the half-court at Foxfire North Park, were oddly shaped squares of old sidewalks that could be turned into full rectangular courts with smooth surfaces and painted court markings.

2. Better rims and rear panels are needed

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

An old metal sign and plastic net that regularly catches basketballs, not allowing them to pass, at Glacier Highlands Park in Ann Arbor on August 31, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

After a few shots on the grounds of Burns Park, which was redone about a year ago, I turned around and asked one of the regular users if the rims and signs were still so rickety. There was a lot to give and they were shaking a bit.

“Yeah, you don’t get lucky bounces on those rims,” ​​he told me.

I found old, rickety rims and panels on several terrains, including plain gray metal panels with bolt heads poking through and no target squares. On one or more occasions, such as at Winewood Thaler Park, the rim was within inches of the 10-foot standard, triggering shots.

In some cases, it appeared that certain knocking situations could be improved by tightening loose bolts. But some courts have received completely new rims and panels in recent years that are much better than the old ones, and I can’t help but think they should all be modernized and brought up to par in every neighborhood.

3. Frequently missing or torn threads

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

A rim missing a net at Foxfire North Park in Ann Arbor on August 29, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

Of course, you can have the best courts and hoops in the world and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have nets.

Throughout the summer, I regularly encountered missing and torn screens, and found that the city could take weeks to get around to replacing them, even after filing an A2 Fix It claim.

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

A half-ripped net on the basketball court at Arbor Oaks Park in Ann Arbor on August 26, 2022. Residents complain that nets can be missing or torn for months of the year.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

I suggested to the city that the nets be regularly checked and replaced as park maintenance crews are in the parks mowing regularly, but the city says residents are reporting issues through A2 Fix. This is always the best way to go. The only problem is that not everyone knows how to do this.

I also let the city know why the standard nylon nets are preferable to the alternatives found in some parks. For example, there are plastic nets in some parks that catch basketballs, not allowing them to pass, requiring the use of sticks to push the balls out after the shots.

Forsythe Park

A bent and broken metal basketball net at Forsythe Park in Ann Arbor on September 12, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

And some parks have metal chain nets which aren’t great from a usability perspective and can cause extra ball wear. And on some terrain with older style rims, metal S-hooks are used to thread nylon threads and these can vibrate and come loose and just be annoying.

4. It’s on the city’s radar

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

Baxter Park basketball court in Ann Arbor on August 31, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

I shared my observations with the city’s parks department and was pleasantly surprised to find that park planners were simultaneously conducting their own audit of the courts and agreed with my assessment of some of the harsh conditions, and it’s a problem on their radar to solve.

I was particularly concerned that some of the courts close to low-income/BIPOC populations were being neglected, and I was happy to hear that the city was planning court improvements over the next few years, neighborhood by neighborhood, in the interests of fairness, starting with redeveloping the surface of the Baxter Park lot behind the city’s Green Baxter Court affordable housing complex next year and inviting neighbors to help paint a mural there. Murals are also planned for the newly resurfaced courts at the Southeast Area Park Surface and Leslie Park.

West Park and Arbor Oaks Park are two other places where I hope city officials see fit to revamp the courts. It would be great to have top notch courts there.

5. More funding needed

Ann Arbor Basketball Courts

Ann Arbor’s Cloverdale Park basketball court lives up to its name with clover and other vegetation growing between large cracks in the sidewalk on August 29, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

However, with so many other courts in need of improvement, it could take many years to bring them all up to the same modern standards. Between basketball, tennis, and pickleball, there are more than 70 playgrounds in Ann Arbor’s parks, and the city tries to resurface two or three every year.

Hopefully the city can find additional funds to accelerate these efforts.

In the meantime, many Ann Arborites may have to skip their neighborhood park to get to nicer terrain, but I consider myself lucky to have a pretty good one just down the street at Allmendinger Park.


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