Lakewood Reinstalls Basketball Hoops At Madison Park

restored basketball hoops at Madison Park in Lakewood, Ohio
Two shootings led to the removal of the basketball hoops at Madison Park in Lakewood’s Birdtown neighborhood. The hoops were reinstalled Thursday afternoon, though a cold spring rain kept the courts empty. [Taylor Haggerty / ideastream]
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The basketball hoops were back in place at Lakewood’s Madison Park Thursday, after police concluded the investigation into a shooting there earlier this month.

The decision to remove the hoops faced criticism from some residents, who said it reinforced negative stereotypes and created inequity, as all other park facilities remained open.

The city plans to expand a mentorship program on the basketball courts, said Mayor Meghan George, and will continue increased police presence at the park.

“That was one of the things myself and the police chief discussed even before this latest incident in Madison Park,” George said. “We really need to get back and focus on community policing, and get our officers out of the cars.”

Starting in May, an adult will be onsite daily to supervise the courts and help resolve any conflicts, George said. The city has asked the Anti-Racism Task Force to weigh in on other measures that would keep the park safe and equitable.

“There was another incident at the park earlier this year, so we want to make sure the park continues to be a safe space for everybody,” George said.

Putting the hoops back up is the right move, said Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee (LOBC) member Casey Davis. But she would like the city to issue a statement that basketball does not contribute to criminal activity.

“The LOBC has been having this conversation about basketball courts and lack of basketball courts in Lakewood for over a decade, and we kind of would just like to put it to rest, put it to bed,” Davis said. “Especially now that we have gained so much support from community and other partnerships that agree with us.”

Some residents did call for the hoops to remain down, Davis said. She’s encouraging those who are still concerned about safety to contribute to ongoing discussions on making changes at the park.

“We just ask for those people, that they give us a chance to demonstrate these ideas that we have and that they also should come out and get involved in moving forward and being positive, rather than just coming from a place of fear,” Davis said.

Other park improvements the LOBC is discussing include adding volleyball courts, updating the basketball court and adding bleachers. But the mentorship program and more engagement from local police are a good starting point, Davis said.

“Little details upset people, so if there’s a person there who knows basketball and is used to dealing with all types of people, that’s really going to help with the flow of things,” she said.

Also in the works is a letter to the mayor’s office from residents, with a list of additional recommendations and requests for the park, said community organizer Randy Brown.

Brown is organizing a meeting Saturday in the park to discuss the path forward.

“Some of our requests are simple things that can happen really quickly, and some of them might take a little more time,” he said.

The city could make major improvements using federal coronavirus relief funds, Brown said.

“I want to see them invest big in the space, and I want to see them invest big in that park,” he said. “If that large sum of money is meant for the city to use as COVID relief, then I want to see that money go into investing in the park.”

George said the city is still waiting for guidance on possible uses for the latest round of federal coronavirus stimulus funding before making spending decisions.

“We anticipate receiving that guidance from the Treasury in mid-May, and then we can work with council collectively to allocate those funds,” she said.

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