News

San Juan School opens its basketball courts to the public

But pickleball players are not happy with the new hours. 
From left: Jennifer Colby, Barbara Dill-Varga, and John Freeman. Photo by Robert Eliason.
From left: Jennifer Colby, Barbara Dill-Varga, and John Freeman. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Pickleball Courts. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Pickleball Courts. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Councilmember John Freeman and ASJUSD interim superintendent Barbara Dill-Varga try their luck. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Councilmember John Freeman and ASJUSD interim superintendent Barbara Dill-Varga try their luck. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mayor Leslie Jordan and City Manager Don Reynolds show off their free-throw shooting skills. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mayor Leslie Jordan and City Manager Don Reynolds show off their free-throw shooting skills. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Jennifer Colby's basketball cupcakes. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Jennifer Colby's basketball cupcakes. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Officials from the city of San Juan Bautista and the Aromas-San Juan School District took to the basketball courts at the San Juan School on Dec. 19 to shoot a few (mostly failed) hoops during a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of the sports grounds to the public after daily school hours and on weekends for the first time in 10 years.  

“What brought this about is the lack of possibilities for young people to practice basketball or volleyball or any other sport in this town,” said City Councilmember John Freeman. “There’s a definite shortage of park space in our town for children, and it’s great for older people who can come down and play two-on-two or three-on-three any time they want.”

A joint-use agreement between the council and the school district to allow public use of the area was approved on June 14. The ribbon-cutting and formal granting of access to the school property planned for September were delayed because of uncertainties about the seismic condition of the school, which are still being determined.

According to City Manager Don Reynolds, the fence closing off the courts and sports field was built in response to the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He said he welcomed the agreement as an example of building partnerships to work toward what is best for the community.

“This is a great way to start the week,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing because this frees up our other parks for passive uses and allows others to come out here and be active and rough and ready.”

Interim School District Superintendent Barbara Dill-Varga, conceding that soccer was more of her game, also attended the ceremony and took a moment to play one-on-one with Freeman.

“I think this is a really important step in the partnership between the school district and the community,” she said. “We need to work together to provide recreational opportunities for our youth, our seniors, and anyone else who wants to be involved.”

Other attendees at the ribbon-cutting were Mayor Leslie Jordan, council members Scott Freels, Mary Edge and Cesar Flores, and Jennifer Colby, former chair of the Aromas-San Juan School District Board of Trustees.

The courts opened unofficially two weeks ago, and San Juan School Principal Ethan Stocks said he has already seen people using it.

“I worked at the district office today,” he said. “And when I pulled in this afternoon, about three o’clock, there were people out on the courts playing basketball. So even in the short time that the gates have been open and even with the time change, the community is using it all the time. People are glad to be back and out and using the space.”

According to the agreement terms, access to the sports grounds and the pickleball courts will be available after all students have left the campus, at least from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. The gates will also be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.on weekends from October through March. The weekend hours will extend to 8 p.m. from April through September.

While the agreement will add the basketball courts to the recreational space available to the community, the terms also have reduced the hours that the pickleball courts are open, to the consternation of those who play there regularly.

“Since I’ve been playing for the last couple years, the courts have just always been open to the public,” said Nathan Fort. “There are quite a few people who come from all over during the day, including players from Monterey, Pacific Grove, Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Now they open the courts at 5 o’clock and it’s dark by 5:10. There are no lights here, so it makes the courts completely unusable.”

City Manager Don Reynolds said Stocks had requested the courts be closed during school hours because the noise distracted the students, who were taking tests before the winter break. He said plans were being considered to let students use the courts during school hours, which would also close the area to the public.

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.