Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES – A long ribbon was strewn in front of brand new fitness and playground equipment Tuesday at St. Andrews Recreation Center in South Los Angeles.

Children and adults from the surrounding community along with Clippers players Ronny Turiaf, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Green, representatives from the center, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Kia Motors and The California Endowment stood in a semi-circle happily awaiting the symbolic ribbon cutting.

It was the third basketball court and playground refurbishment this season that the Clippers in conjunction with The California Endowment and Kia have put together. The first was in Boyle Heights with Long Beach and the St. Andrews location coming next.

“The Clippers and Kia Motors, our partners, came out to refurbish this park, make the basketball courts better for the kids, make the playground area have an exercise area,” said Kathlyn Mead, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The Endowment. “The kids are so excited to be here and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”

Perhaps, the children’s excitement level was best explained by the dozens of youngsters scrambling back and forth between the playground and adjacent basketball court where some learned basic dance moves with members of the Clippers Spirit and others participated in layup lines and basketball drills with Turiaf, Green, Bledsoe and Clippers player development coach Dave Severns.

According to the St. Andrews center director Anthony Gordon, though, the children and young adults have been excited for a while.

“People in the community would come in and say, ‘When can we utilize this facility? When can we utilize the outdoor basketball courts?’” Gordon said.

The center, which is visited by hundreds of people daily, has long been in need of new facilities.

“They really appreciated this,” said Gordon, who has been facility director at St. Andrew’s Recreation Center for nearly two years and has been with the recreation and parks department for more than a decade. “One of the kids went up to one of my staff persons and said, ‘We really appreciate what you’re doing here.’ So, this is a great asset to the community, to the people of this community.”

Michael Madrid, who along with his son owns Madrid Corp., a Riverside-based construction company, talked more about the specific things that were upgraded or repaired in the project, which included the court, playground and parking lot.

“What we did is actually came out and did a pre-construction type of meeting and looked at what could truly benefit the park as far improvements,” Madrid said. “We realized that with a strong cleaning and minimal sandblasting to the existing striping, new footings, backboards and poles put up with some fresh striping would enhance the courts substantially and at a minimal expense.

“We focused more on the workout area, which was aged and severely damaged with some concrete perimeter blocks and so forth. We really focused more of the value into the workout equipment and its foundations. Other items included benches and poles that needed refurbishing and enhancing.”

Madrid was involved in the refurbishment of the other FIT Campus locations and has worked with the Clippers’ Foundation for several years. He said each project requires a special attention to specific details. In the case of St. Andrews, the weathered parking lot proved to be an area of concern.

While in other locations, the basketball courts required more attention.

In each case, the difference that it makes is palpable. At St. Andrews, on a windswept sunny Tuesday afternoon, adults and local students and parents could be seen anxiously waiting for the official re-opening.

Chris Beyer, Senior Director of Sponsorship Sales with the Clippers, noticed it, too.

“Seeing the kids out here playing and knowing that we developed this program and were able to provide these court dedications and playgrounds and they’re going to be here in the community for years to come is kind of a special feeling,” he said as a young boy made a layup on the new court behind him.

For Gordon and Mead, the new-look facility accomplishes a couple of monumental goals: safety and fitness.

“It’s very significant,” Gordon said. “Number one, it keeps them out of trouble. A lot of them, who are now young adults, they say to me that if it wasn’t for rec. and parks that ‘I would be locked up or in trouble.’ But by being here and participating in outdoor sports, indoor sports, it has kept them out of trouble. They are in a structured supervised environment.”

Mead added: “One of the things that’s important is that kids love to run around and play, right. And to have a safe place and for them to have equipment that they can use, it means so much to us at The Endowment because it allows the kids to do what comes naturally to them. It allows them to have a good time with their friends and their families.”