Indoor basketball courts or outdoor courts? Why not both?

7/7/2022, 6 p.m.
The advantages of indoor and outdoor basketball courts are fairly obvious.

The advantages of indoor and outdoor basketball courts are fairly obvious.

Indoor basketball courts, which generally are more expensive to build and maintain than outdoor courts, assure that the game will be played rain or shine.

There are no pests to worry about—except perhaps an overzealous fan or inept referee.

Good indoor lighting allows players to deliver more accurately when blocking, passing, stealing and shooting.

Best of all, the likelihood of destroying fancy, high-dollar sneakers is lessened by indoor courts that typically are made of hardwood or resilient flooring. (Although some of us remain puzzled by former Duke player Zion Williamson’s exploding shoe during the Duke - North Carolina game February 2019.)

When comparing outdoor courts, the overwhelming advantage once upon a time was just that — being outdoors. Added benefits included fresh air, more space, being less costly to install and maintain, free for fans and passersby, and memories meant to last.

Of course the main difference between indoor and outdoor basketball courts is the weather and, in Richmond, trying to play a quick game of pickup on the neighborhood park or school court is rapidly becoming a game of chance.

Climate change that now hands us torrid summers and bitter-to-mild winters, mixed with unexpected thunderstorms, demands that planned outdoor ac- tivities of any sort have “due to inclement weather” backup dates.

We were led to consider all of the above when reading about plans for the new George Wythe High School in Richmond’s South Side. On June 28, about 60 people attended what was the first of four meetings to gather public input and suggestions on the new school, which will be designed by RRMM Architects. Construction of the school itself hovers over $140 million, according to previous Richmond Free Press reports. Completion is projected by 2024 or 2025.

During the meeting, Duane Harver, RRMM”S president and CEO, walked the audience through each room of the draft rendering, wrote Richmond Free Press reporter Holly Rodriguez. A circular administration building, secure entrances and one cafeteria rather than the two existing ones were in Mr. Harver’s draft.

Audience members inquired about sustainability, storage, parking and green spaces. Overall, the ar- ticle paints a solid account of the meeting with few surprises given the time it has taken the new high school’s plans to unfold.

However, one comment made by Jimmy Hart, football and track and field coach, gave us pause.

In noting that conversations should take place with teachers, staff and others who work directly with students, Mr. Hart inquired whether a track and field area will be included. He also said that installing an outdoor basketball court is not a good idea.

“People in the community had used the outdoor basketball court before, left trash and destroyed the property,” he is quoted as saying in the article.

If Mr. Hart’s words about the basketball courts are true and compel school leadership to act on his advice, it is a sad reality for a school district and neighborhood already located in a food desert where there is low wealth and often no hope. And let’s not overlook the reality of how neighborhood school basketball courts and other facilities often are havens for quick games of pickup and fast friendships that last a lifetime.

A wise choice is to install both indoor and outdoor basketball courts, and adding a fifth public meeting to discuss our suggestion may be needed.

An indoor court will allow student athletes to practice and perfect their games in a state-of-the art facility with controlled climate settings, proper floor- ing, lighting and seating.

Installing an outdoor basketball court (or courts— yes, plural), in addition to the aforementioned advan- tages, informs the community that, despite the actual or perceived behaviors of some who may or may not live in the Wythe school district, there is trust.

That trust will be accompanied by accountability, and THEY—as gatekeepers, residents, staff, students and taxpayers—must ensure that trash, vandalism and other misguided acts do not destroy what has taken so long to build.