Kiwanis dedicates court

Published 10:05 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

A new basketball court is now officially open in Albert Lea.

Members of the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club, city leaders and Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors came together Wednesday to dedicate the new full-court, six-hoop Kiwanis Court across from Frank Hall Park at the intersection of Frank and James avenues.

The court, a collaborative effort in funding between the Kiwanis Club and the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department, will give children and adults alike another place to go when it comes to playing basketball. And it gives the city its primary spot for outdoor basketball and for events such as three-on-three basketball tournaments.

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It’s been an effort almost three years in the making.

Noon Kiwanian Tim Engstrom, who is also the managing editor of the Albert Lea Tribune, gave the history of the project.

Engstrom said when he lived in Washington state he was also part of a Kiwanis Club. That club provided most of its community service through check donations and didn’t do projects like it long ago had done.

However, when he became president of the club, he said, he wanted to start doing projects, mainly urging the club to build a basketball court because the Rotary Club there had built baseball diamonds. The idea was met with resistance and failed.

While ringing bells for the Salvation Army at Shopko in Albert Lea, he told this story to then-Kiwanis Secretary Dick Paul. He snapped his fingers and told him a basketball court would be a great project, Engstrom said.

That was in December 2006.

Paul took the idea back to the Noon Kiwanis Club’s board, which approved it. The club then took it to the city Parks and Recreation Department. In May 2007, the Albert Lea City Council approved the conversion of what used to be tennis courts into the basketball court.

The court is right across the street from Frank Hall Park, where all of the Albert Lea Kiwanis clubs three years ago raised funds for playground equipment.

The Noon Kiwanis Club formed a basketball committee, headed by Jean Pestorious, and then fundraised for it. Engstrom said she deserved the credit for taking the idea and making it a reality.

Pestorious said the club held raffles, had an Applebee’s breakfast fundraiser, worked concessions at the Freeborn County Fair, among others to raise money. They also received grants.

In the end, the Noon Kiwanis group raised about $21,000 to go toward the project, and the city pitched in almost the same amount to finish the project.

Different entities — Innovance, Security Bank, Mrs. Gerry’s, Erlandsons — also donated and, with the city and Kiwanus, are featured sponsors on the six backboards. Other donors are expected to be featured on a sign designating the site as Kiwanis Court. The city plans to paint stripes and install benches, too.

City staff completed the labor for the project this summer, and the ground around the court has now been seeded.

Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Director Jay Hutchison said the city appreciates the work of the Kiwanians for making it possible, as collaboration between the city and other groups has become more important in times of tight budgets.

Pestorious thanked the whole community for coming together with the club to make the project a success.

Noon Kiwanis Club President Marge Hamersly said there have been people playing basketball on the court everyday since the concrete hardened.

Three Kiwanis Club presidents shepherded the project: Hamersly, Vicki Lunning and Larry Forster.

The club now is considering its next project, which likely will be in the same vicinity, Hamersly said.