A few residents of Lakeland Avenue put a full-court press on Lakewood City Council on Monday night about the city’s only public basketball court.
Kauffman Park — the pilot site for the sport’s return to the city following a four-year hiatus — has been a popular destination for youth looking to play ball.
Neighbors of the park say it has also been a destination for trouble.
Kim Schelgunov, a resident on Lakeland Avenue, told council that foul language is his primary concern. His frustration came to a head on Memorial Day when he says basketball players began dropping the “f-bomb” around his four children.
He walked across the street toward the court with a baseball bat in hand. A police officer at the basketball court diffused the situation, but it did little to end Schelgunov’s frustration.
“We are told to compromise,” he said. “But at what point do our concerns get addressed?”
Schelgunov was one of three residents who attended Monday’s council meeting.
Mayor Michael Summers told them that the city is already working to address the issues. Among the plans, the city is “reviewing the effectiveness” of a $4,500 sound screen that could minimize the noise from the park.
He also said the city is considering a review of the park’s hours of operation, as well as adding security cameras — like the ones used at Madison Park.
Councilwoman Monique Smith responded to Schelgunov's complaint, noting that perhaps the park should close until the issue is resolved. She later clarified, noting that the park should only remain open only when there is supervision.
“To me, these people need a remedy and they need it soon,” she said. “I personally checked in on this court. I confronted teenagers about foul language. Having to deal with this at all, tells me that this pilot might be failing.”
But Summers said that basketball is here to stay.
“There is a huge demand for kids who want to play the game,” he said. “With our population density in Lakewood, our shared space is coveted by all. Our success depends on how well we share this public space.
"We can't give up on this."
Last fall, city council OK’d a pilot program sponsored by the Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee. Basketball advocates say the program has been a success.
Stephanie Toole, the co-founder of LOBC, said there haven’t been any serious issues at the park — and she’s not even sure the swearing is from the basketball court.
With a supervisor on the premises, she said, that behavior isn’t tolerated.
“I find this unbelievable,” said Toole, a mother of seven and assistant girls’ cross country coach at Lakewood High School. “This is a basketball. We constantly demonize basketball. It’s unbelievable. We’re trying to promote exercise.
“These are good kids. Are they perfect? No, but which group of kids is perfect?”
Schools talk basketball
At Monday’s Lakewood Board of Education meeting, school officials echoed some of the same concerns discussed at Lakewood City Hall.
As the schools have undergone major construction projects during the past few years, the basketball courts on schools grounds disappeared. School board is eyeing a measure to allow indoor basketball at three of the schools during evening hours.
Superintendent Joe Madak — along with board members Linda Beebe and Ed Favre — said that security issues, injury liability and operating costs should be considered as the plan moves forward.
Once the right safeguards and regulations are developed to protect the players and the Lakewood City Schools, Madak and the board members said they would then entertain the idea further.
Patch reporter John Deike contributed to this report