The Racecourse Park in Northampton had its basketball courts refurbished last year thanks to Basketball Northants and its Chair Martin Spencer, West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) and Sport England, and backed by Basketball England’s #ProjectSwish campaign.
Originally a recipient park of Adidas and Sport England’s long-lasting Outdoor Basketball Initiative, which installed basketball posts, backboards and rims – aptly named ‘Gladiator’ units – across England’s towns and cities in the 90s, the courts had deteriorated terribly according to Spencer, who set about managing the project, believing the basketball community ‘deserved’ a spot to hoop in Northampton’s premier sports park.
WNC and Sport England invested nearly £140,000 each in the installation of a new surface, line markings and replacement basketball hoops to support the 5v5 and 3x3 formats of the game, as well as the installation of new floodlights, and #ProjectSwish contributed to the design of the courts and equipment.
“What we had before was this huge area of three oversized basketball courts,” said Spencer, who is originally from East London.
“It’s rare that a big group of players come and play a full game. It’s more of a natural development outside to see people shooting on one hoop and then that leads to 1v1, 2v2, or 3x3. And with the upsurge of the short format of the game, we decided to create six 3x3 courts.
“We now have a venue where players can play at any time up until 9pm with the floodlights, without having to pay for the facilities, it will all be free. What better for the basketball community?”
An essential part of the design is the individual colour themes of the courts, making scheduling fixtures for tournaments a tidy process, says Spencer, as well as the colours looking brilliant under the floodlights at night.
The 75-year-old retired teacher feels the refurbishment is ‘his legacy’ to his time in the game, which he helped grow alongside BE’s President Emeritus Ken Charles MBE through roles with FIBA, pioneering children’s mini-basketball sessions across the world.
“I have helped create something that I do feel a sense of ownership over and I do think is one of Basketball Northants’ number one development projects. Participation levels and club memberships have gone up as a result of it.”