June 2, 2020

Essex is Well on its Way to Building a New Basketball Center for Kids

Artist rendering of the Essex Basketball Center to be completed in the spring of 2012

A wonderful dream is on its way to becoming a reality. After over three years of intense effort, by as early as next spring the Town of Essex is going to have its very own basketball center. Situated on a now underused  area next to the imposing Connecticut Light and Power transformer substation, and neighboring the Essex Fire Engine Company’s Fire House, there will soon be a beautifully laid out basketball center.

The center will be situated at the southeast quadrant of West Avenue and Route 154, just as you enter the Town of Essex.

Officially called the “Essex Basketball Center & Gateway Project,” the new facility will include a full sized basketball court with two backboards, as well as two practice backboards, for a total of 7,140 square feet of playing surface.  The surface of the new courts will have a new cover of treated asphalt; and there will be spectator bleachers, large enough to seat 70 people.

The basketball center will be lighted until 10:00 p.m. every evening, and will be monitored by security cameras for safety. In addition, the entire facility will be designated as a Safe Zone, meaning that  alcohol, drugs and tobacco products will be strictly prohibited.

The central purpose in building the basketball center is to create a facility for young people, “where they can safely hang out together and play basketball in a secure environment.” The center will be used for friendly pick-up games and informal play and practice, but it will not host league games of local school teams.

A prime mover of the entire effort to bring the Basketball Center to Essex is local resident James Rawn. Rawn serves as one of three Co-Chairs of the Essex Park and Recreation Subcommittee of the Park and Recreation Commission. Other Co-Chairs are Dennis Robida and Tony Mosa. The Essex Rotary Club is a co-sponsor of the project.

Local Essex resident James Rawn, leading the effort to build the Essex Basketball Center

As for the costs involved in building the new basketball center, according to Rawn, the total cost, relying on firm quotations from reputable contractors, is $177,000. This number includes 15% for contingencies.

These monies will pay for a wealth of improvements, including the construction of the basketball courts and practice area with fencing; new bleachers, bike racks and picnic tables; and new lightings fixtures, which will match the style of the lighting fixtures of the neighboring Fire House.

Also, covered in the projected costs will be new asphalt for the adjacent parking lot, an extensive new grass sprinkler system and new landscaping for the lawn areas of the property. Also covered will be expenses for the construction of new sidewalks around the edges of the property, and new landscaping around the Connecticut Light and Power substation.

New crosswalks and crossing lights are being installed by the State Department of Transportation at no expense to the town.

It is the firm intent of the sponsors of the project to fund the entire construction of the basketball center with private monies, without the expenditure of a single dollar of Town of Essex funds. To date, according to project Co-Chair Rawn, there is already over $50,000 in cash and firm commitments.

Rawn says that he is confident that the rest of the money can be raised.  In fact, he believes, “The rest of the money will come in easily.”  He adds, “Money is coming in from contributors, when they understand that this is all about the kids.”

Young Essex residents ready to play basketball with "Park and Rec" Commissioner Jack Spangler and project Co-Chair James Rawn

The roll out of the fundraising campaign began the weekend of November 12 and 13, with over 60 local families and Park and Recreation Commissioners going door to door calling on their neighbors and friends to support “this community project for the kids,” as Rawn describes it. Also, solicitation postcards were sent out to all Essex residents on November 9.

To obtain a donor package supporters of the project should go to: www.essexct.gov, next click on “Park and Recreation,” and then click on, “Essex Basketball Center.” The donor package will specify how contributions can be made directly on line.

Contributions can also be made to the new Essex Basketball Center by mail, by making out a check payable to: “Town of Essex, Basketball Center & Gateway Project,” and sending it to: Essex Park and Recreation Department, 29 West Avenue, Essex, CT 06426. All contributions are tax deductable.

Although not responsible for any initial construction costs, going forward the Town of Essex will incur upkeep expenses for the new facility, which will include lighting the parking area at night for “park & ride” users, and for the general public.

Actual work on the new basketball center is scheduled to begin this coming March, and the construction period is estimated between four and five weeks. This means that the facility will be available for play as early as next spring, then into next summer and fall, and even into next winter on good days, not to mention for years to come.

Not a bad thing, when you think about it … “for the kids.”

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