Bocce courts installed near city poolPublished 6:54pm Saturday, August 18, 2012
By Brandi Hagen and Tim Engstrom
Two bocce courts now grace the corner of Frank Avenue and Front Street in a grassy area east of the city pool.
They are among three major changes this summer in the inventory of the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department. The other two are an expanded disc golf course at Bancroft Bay Park and an improved basketball court at Morin Park.
Serious players simply call it bocce, not bocce ball. Open bocce can be played anywhere with open lawn available, but court bocce is played on a court with backboards and is preferred for tournaments.
The balls are thrown underhand, and the best way to learn how to play is to find someone who knows the game. Generally, though, the idea is to roll the balls without hitting the backboard. The sides are OK. The first ball is smaller and called the jack or the pallino. A coin flip determines who throws it. Players then attempt to get the bocce balls closer to the pallino than their opponents. Whether competing as individuals or as teams, points are determined at the end of a frame, when all eight balls have been played and measured. A point is awarded for each ball a side has that is closer to the pallino than the opponent’s closest ball. Anywhere from one to four points could be awarded within a frame.
The first team to get 13 points wins. The winning side throws the pallino in the next round.
The project was proposed by the Albert Lea Aktion Club, a service club for adults with disabilities. It is an offshoot of the Noon Kiwanis Club.
Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Director Jay Hutchison commended the Aktion Club for raising more than $1,600 to go toward the construction of the bocce courts. He said Parks and Recreation Department workers built the courts with assistance from Aktion Club members.
Hutchison said the city budgeted $12,000 for concrete and standards to replace the well-used basketball court at Morin Park. The old slab was cracking, and the hoops were deteriorated. Parks and Recreation Department workers handled the labor.
Hutchison said support from citizens on new projects helps the city use tax revenue to maintain existing facilities.
Bancroft Bay Park already had two disc golf courses. There was an 18-hole course at the lower portion of the park installed in 2008, and a nine-hole course at the upper part of the park installed in 2004.
Professional disc golfer and course designer Ross Brandt, a graduate student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, moved to Albert Lea last year and saw the potential of the nine-hole site to become 18 holes with a redesigned, more challenging course. He enlisted members of the Flying Lea Disc Golf Club and other local disc golfers to help with volunteer labor and with raising the funds. He received a grant from Pioneering Healthy Communities and from private donations to offset constructions costs.
With talk of attracting top-level pro players, the course was first proposed to the Albert Lea City Council in February and approved in April. Volunteers in May began clearing invasive species, vines, dead trees and ground clutter for fairways.
Baskets were installed in mid-July for what was dubbed the Oak Island Disc Golf Course. There is a lock at the base of the baskets, so they will come out temporarily before the first weekend of October for the Big Island Rendezvous.
The city this summer intends to remove the homemade baskets and wooden tee markers for the nine-hole course.
Brandt said he hopes any controversy the course has stirred will calm with time as people experience the park.
Hutchison said the cost to the city was providing oversight for the work, doing some high level trimming and, as before, mowing the grassy areas.