The company known for facilities such as Disney World and Disneyland also is spreading some of its magic Mount Airy’s way.
This city has become one of only 25 applicants in the nation to be awarded a Play Spaces grant from the National Recreation and Park Association and The Walt Disney Co.
The $30,000 approved for Mount Airy — which requires no local matching funds — will be used to transform the badly deteriorated basketball court area at Riverside Park into a multi-purpose facility.
Plans call for replacing the existing rough surface with asphalt to accommodate a refurbished basketball court along with Surry County’s first outdoor pickleball court, agility stations, space for outdoor exercise classes and places for kids games such as hopscotch.
That site essentially will offer “something for the entire family,” Darren Lewis, Mount Airy Parks and Recreation director, said Friday.
“The Riverside Park basketball courts are not in the best of shape, and that’s an understatement,” Lewis added. The surface is cracked and grass is growing out of the crevices.
“It’s the area in the park in need of the most attention,” Lewis said of an overall facility that has been enhanced in recent years with the additions of a greenway, skateboard park and refurbished playground.
Recognizing that need, city personnel applied for the Play Spaces funding involving Disney.
“They approved 25 grants throughout the entire nation and we were one of the 25 selected,” Lewis said. Only two of the grant recipients are in North Carolina: Mount Airy and Greensboro.
The National Recreation and Park Association/Walt Disney Co. Play Spaces money is available for a variety of uses, such as playgrounds. But Lewis said the focus for the Riverside Park improvements will be serving people of all abilities.
He seems particularly excited about the new outdoor pickleball court to be established.
“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the nation,” the parks and recreation official said of a paddle sport that merges elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.
An indoor facility for that activity exists at Reeves Community Center. “Our seniors really enjoy pickleball,” Lewis said.
The improvement project at Riverside Park will not begin right away, according to the parks and recreation director. He explained that even with the basketball court being in such bad shape, city personnel do not want to deprive kids of its use while they are out of school for the summer.
“It will probably be in the later part of the summer,” Lewis said of the work getting started, likely near the end of August.
This will allow time for obtaining quotes from contractors for the project.
“I don’t think this will be a real lengthy job,” Lewis said.
The grant requirements specify that the work must be completed by Nov. 1.
Though Lewis wrote the successful grant application, he credited former director Catrina Alexander, who resigned in March to take a position with the city school system.
“I had a great teacher and I would call Catrina the grant guru,” Lewis said of the former official credited with obtaining numerous state and federal grants to benefit Mount Airy.
He added that city recreation personnel saw an opportunity to make the improvements at Riverside Park through the Play Spaces program and are elated that Mount Airy was approved.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.