OPINION: City Commission Segregates Cypress Park

Pickleball courts park

Pickle Ball Courts in Coral Springs

By Alison Rogers – Guest Contributor

At the January 27, 2021, commission workshop, no commissioner was willing to hold the city accountable for a series of decisions that had a disparate racial impact and outcome, intended or not.

Basketball players and their tax-paying parents, who make up a predominantly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) community, enjoyed these courts for 30 years. Now, that community has been made to give up half the courts it once had and move.

It’s like having a front-row seat and being asked to move to the back of the bus.

Coral Springs residents should not stand for this.

Cypress Park Basketball was constructed in 1990.  Basketball is the second most popular sport in the city, according to the City’s own statistics. Cypress Park had the most popular basketball courts in the city. It was a multigenerational, socioeconomic diverse gathering spot.

The location of Cypress Park is ideal for young people and families because of its centrality. Now there are only 14 lit outdoor basketball courts left for residents. The majority are regularly reserved for pay-to-play recreation leagues or located in remote areas of the city.

The City’s made the preposterous decision to destroy the Cypress Park courts unilaterally, ignoring resident emails and protests. And at the workshop, all five commissioners have, by consensus, affirmed the city’s actions. This should not stand because it is not a moral, fiscally responsible, nor logistically sensible city plan.

The morality of this decision is worth scrutinizing. During the following commission meeting, Black History Month was recognized. The Commissioners spoke on a number of important issues. But when it comes to city parks, the Commission remains blind to ongoing decisions and statements insensitive to the needs of Coral Springs’ proud and socioeconomically diverse residents.

Don’t be fooled that removing the basketball courts at Cypress Park was primarily about the noise. Pickleball is noisier than basketball. In North Berkeley, at Cedar Rose Park, residents complained pickleball was noisier than basketball and tennis, sounding like “gunshots.”

The disappearance of hoops during COVID-19 is about anti-BIPOC gentrification. It’s happening all over the country: the destruction of basketball courts and replacing them with pickleball courts.

Granted, this change is happening partly because, unlike other sports, pickleball is backed by private franchisers. They press cities to spend taxpayer dollars on arenas that they can reap profits from.

If you don’t care about basketball, your sport might be next. Tennis Courts were removed in Loves Park, IL, in 2010, causing a controversy that became known as the “Great PickleBall War.”

This decision isn’t about safety either. There is no conclusive evidence to show removing basketball courts from Coral Springs neighborhoods or any other neighborhood will make us safer.

At the workshop, the City showed data suggesting that Cypress Park’s basketball courts were not crime-ridden, and if anything, the more courts—the safer the park.  A 2011 study on Philadelphia’s neighborhood parks found that crime rates remain unaffected by the presence of basketball; this is also true of other crowded spaces, like shopping malls. Crime does not track.

COVID-19 is giving cities cover to destroy basketball and other BIPOC community spaces.

For example, a month before the COVID-19 shutdown, during the harshest weeks of winter, Chicago, largely considered the gold standard for basketball  (the city’s legacy includes the Harlem Globetrotters, Isiah Thomas, Tim Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Anthony Davis, and Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in the 90s) was hit. At Roberto Clemente Park, in the gentrifying West Town neighborhood, the basketball court was removed.

Protesting and speaking up matters. During a June 22 council meeting in Minnesota, a proposal was made to move the full court to a regional park, Watab Creek Park, and replace it with a half-sized basketball court and a pickleball court. The move drew criticism from activism group #UniteCloud. But in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the City actually listened to constituents and reversed plans to destroy the courts.

If the disappearance of basketball hoops indicates a City’s ability to hear public comment, not private interests, Coral Springs has ruptured eardrums.

Indeed, a number of comments were made by Coral Springs Commissioners at the workshop that should raise eyebrows.

For example, Vice Mayor Simmons voiced a question asked by BIPOC players who have felt marginalized by this debate for the last 6 years. He asked the City why shrubbery was placed around the basketball courts prior to their destruction. The City replied that it was to block the sight of basketball players. The City stated it had handled “issues like this” similarly in the past.

It’s clear then that the City believes complaints about the basketball courts were driven by the sight of, not the sound of, basketball players for years. This is deeply troubling.

During the workshop, Mayor Scott Brook stated, “[Basketball courts]…should not buffer places of worship, playgrounds, or neighborhoods.” Commissioner Joy Carter was adamant at stating that it ought to be tucked away any time a basketball court was built.

The Mayor and Commissioner Carter must not recognize that their remarks echo the sentiments of intolerant residents. Those residents chose to live next to parks and basketball courts but don’t want to tolerate the sight or sounds of them. Instead, they demand the City spend $500,000 to move them for their special benefit.

Rather than showing some spine to remind homeowners what they signed up for when they chose to live behind a park or tell a few prejudiced complainers where else they can find other jungle gyms, pickleball courts, and alternative exercise around town, the City buckled and spent tax-payer money.

At the workshop, there was much discussion of the Commissioners’ concern for spending during the pandemic. Yet, the pickleball courts were built in the Summer and Spring of 2020, during the height of the pandemic. And, replacing the basketball courts, rather than continuing to implement the Master Plan, would save the City thousands.

At the workshop, the City showed $50,000 would be saved by simply replacing all 4 basketball courts at Cypress Park. Not a single Commissioner had a mind to suggest, even for debate, that the 4 courts be replaced to make injured players feel whole and welcome before discussing spending savings on pickleball courts elsewhere.

Commissioner Shawn Cerra remained in total confusion about what is happening at Cypress. At the meeting, he stated, “We already made our decision on May 27.” Meeting video and minutes prove that statement is the furthest thing from the truth. No such vote took place.

Instead, the Commissioners failed to stand up to the City’s unilateral decisions about Cypress Park, ignoring the thousands of constituents that used and enjoyed the basketball courts at Cypress Park for years.

Some Commissioners heard the cry of constituents to restore the hoops.

“We have to solve this problem without displacing anyone,” said Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons.

Commissioner Metayer, who once voiced her support for the four original basketball courts, said that the City’s decision to cut back on the number of basketball courts and move them across the street would not displace anyone. The misunderstanding was met with silence.

In the end, Pickleball got everything their franchisee wanted while basketball players were kicked out of the park. They are being given half the courts they once had, at a different park, at the cost of several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Basketball players are the only ones displaced. How is that a fair compromise?

While I can appreciate the Commissioners’ feeling pressured to compromise, it is not necessary here.

There can be both four basketball courts in Cypress Park and 14 pickleball courts (the number the pickleball franchise desires) in Coral Springs within budget.

The obvious correction saves the city between $25,000 and $300,000.

PUTUPTHEHOOPS is a grassroots group looking to restore the original full courts established in 1990.  PUTUPTHEHOOPS described these corrections in one-on-one discussions with the Mayor and the latest commission meeting.

The first option is to restore the Original four Full Courts at Cypress, pour concrete for 4 pickleball courts at Hammocks Park, repurpose 1 Sportsplex/Tennis court of their 16, and save $25,000 in the process. That’s well within the annual budget.

The second option was presented by PUTUPTHEHOOPs as well. It showed a way to save tax-payers $300,000. The proposal was to repurpose two Sportsplex tennis courts of the 16 existing at the cost of $24,000 and spend $25,000 to convert the pickleball courts back into the rightful basketball park.

There is no other spot in Cypress Park that can meet the demand of the tens of thousands of basketball players in the City. The City knows it too. They spent 90 minutes showing mockup site plans that failed, eventually settling on a plan that cost $350,000 and left the basketball players miles short.

PUTUPTHEHOOPS demonstrated that other combinations would make pickle ballers happy in the long run. But, the Commissioners are choosing instead to direct the City to displace law-abiding, taxpaying basketballers in favor of special interests.

PUTUPTHEHOOPS says residents may just have to “vote all five commissioners out. None of the commissioners stood up for BIPOC players who feel marginalized by this decision.

We need elected officials with a steely determination to reverse systemic racism and come up with dollar smart solutions that benefit everybody.

We hope you all will follow PUTUPTHEHOOPS on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, and Facebook to learn more about Cypress Basketball’s history and what the organization is planning next.

Alison Rogers is a former varsity basketball for J.P. Taravella High School, formerly frequented the Cypress Park basketball courts. She now owns and works at Rogers Law Practice PLLC. She is a co-founder of @PUTUPTHEHOOPS. 

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