CLIPPERS REFURBISH SECOND PARK IN LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH – A group of about 60 school-age children sat across from a podium and large panel of guests on the newly refinished basketball court at Coolidge Park in North Long Beach.

The kids, wearing oversized white NBA Fit T-shirts, were already excited, flanking both sides of the sidewalk that leads to the court as Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley emerged from the small recreation center building to help The California Endowment, the Los Angeles Clippers, Kaiser Permanente and the City of Long Beach with a refurbished park and fitness center.

They screamed “yeah” seemingly as loud as they could when Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster spoke to the group, asking, “Do you like this? Are you going to use it? That’s what I like to hear.”

But their cheers grew even louder when Clippers President Andy Roeser introduced the players. The group was there to conduct a Clippers Fit clinic in conjunction with the park re-opening. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony, a performance by the Clippers Spirit and more than a hundred onlookers in at the park that runs parallel to the 710 freeway about eight miles north of Long Beach proper.

“Honestly, just to have a playground like this growing up would have been amazing. The playground I grew up playing on had the metal nets that tore up your ball and sometimes you couldn’t get it out, no lane lines, nothing like that,” Griffin said. “We’ve been privileged to do what we love and to be in a position to be able to give back and come out and do this and see kids enjoy this and smile and have a blast is a lot of fun for us.”

And as much fun as the dozens of kids, ranging from first grade all the way up to middle school, were having, it seemed like Griffin and his teammates were having an equally good time. Griffin raced up back and forth on a court with several kids, giving them a head start of course as they dribbled a basketball from one baseline to the other.

It was one of two courts that were complete redone. On one side was full length regulation court and on the other a smaller court with four baskets facing one another in a square.

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“The courts desperately needed refinishing,” said Anna Mendiola, Park Development Officer for the Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine. “The second court, where we used to have a post right in the middle of it, now has four baskets, so there’s just more flexibility. It’s just a huge improvement.”

And it’s also a part of the Clippers and The California Endowment’s larger commitment to local communities. Coolidge is the fifth of six park refurbishment projects they have taken on in the past year and the second time they have ventured into Long Beach. The new touches include all new playground equipment, a fitness station and refinished court surfaces with new baskets, rims and stanchions.

“The basketball court and the playground and the fitness zones are all wonderful and they’re going to get a lot of use,” 9th District Councilman Steven Neal said.  As you can see, our youth are very excited about what’s going to happen today and what goes on after today. When our parks our improved, our entire community improves.

“The mayor talked about how important it is for us to be healthy, how important it is for us to exercise and how important it is for a quality of life for the residents of North Long Beach. These improvements also reflect the spirit of what we’ve themed up here as the uptown renaissance. Where we are helping improve all of the neighborhoods of North Long Beach and this improvement is just part of a larger effort to revitalize our parks and open space in North Long Beach.”

Neal, Foster, Roeser and the players, among others, said the most important factor of all his helping promote a safe and healthy lifestyle for children.

“I think overall these kids look up to a lot of athletes, as we did growing up,” Dudley said. “I think it’s important to set an example as a role model, being here. And I think to open a park, this gives them something they want to do when they get home from school, they can walk to it, feel safe, play. I have kids of my own so I understand that.”

Added Barnes: “I think it’s great. I wish I had opportunity to have stuff like this when I was younger, but I think you see the smile on the kids’ faces. It’s a safe place for the kids to come and play, so it’s a win-win all the way around.”