Volume 74, Number 27 | November 03 - 09, 2004

Lab School senior Vanessa Beaubrun at Basketball City

Hoop dreams on the Hudson under Pier 63’s bubble

By Judith Stiles

Turning the clocks back an hour and nippy weather signal the end of baseball and the beginning of basketball season for thousands of boys and girls in New York City. Approximately five percent of youth basketball players in the city play serious competitive games all year long on A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union) teams or club travel teams. But where do the rest of the city kids play when the weather gets cold and the baseball gloves are retired to the closet shelf?

“Basketball City, at Pier 63 on the West Side Highway, is committed to bringing the professional basketball experience to amateur adult and youth players,” says Bruce Radler, one of the founders of the organization, which opened its doors in 1997.

Radler’s eyes light up as he enthusiastically describes the array of programs available to youth players at the facility. “We are dedicated to giving back to the community and kids and we do this with the help of fundraising tournaments and corporate sponsors,” he adds. “The Battle Of The Sexes” tournament raised money to make the courts available to public alternative schools that do not have their own gyms. Former pro players and Wall St. executives participated in this tournament to help The Beacon School, School of The Future and a total of 16 alternative schools be able to hold gym classes and host school basketball teams at Basketball City.

When the two courts at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center in Greenwich Village overflowed with too many teams needing court time, Basketball City invited them to use its courts free of charge. This program is a joint initiative between Basketball City and Jump Start New York, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to improving the lives of New York City’s young people, focusing primarily on at-risk youth, providing them with educational and athletic programs,” according to the Web site www.BasketballCity.com.

For girls, coming up soon is a one-day clinic with New York Liberty All-Star, Becky Ammon, where players from ages 6 to 17 “can learn some of the skills that helped her get to the WNBA,” promises the registration form for the clinic to be held on Sun., Dec. 12. Girls will not only get the benefit of small group instruction but will also play in competitive games.

This clinic is an offshoot of the ever-popular weeklong New York Liberty Camp held every summer with the likes of Teresa Weatherspoon, a four-time WNBA All-Star Team player.

Other Basketball City camps have included renowned players such as Stephon Marbury and Walt Frazier. Jump Start alone offers over 60 scholarships to attend these day camps, and other scholarships are provided by corporate sponsors.

In the late ’90s, the Hudson River Park Trust began developing the land along the Lower West Side waterfront as a park, and at W. 23rd St. a defunct warehouse was leased to Basketball City, which transformed it into a top-notch facility. The enormous white inflatable bubble is roof to a 40,000-sq.-ft. space that boasts six regulation hardwood courts, electronic score boards, a training room and state-of-the-art locker rooms. The entire space is well heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer. The durable cloth roof is held aloft by forced air shot through rib-like cloth tubes bracing the structure. Air is pumping and holding the roof up 24/7, even when all the city hoopsters are sleeping, resulting in a Con Ed bill that would make anyone toss and turn.

Adult co-ed teams enjoy lively games before work and sometimes late at night within leagues formed by the Hotel Workers Union, the Restaurant League, Solomon Smith Barney, SONY and Standard and Poor’s to name a few. It has become a great place for office bonding as well as a business networking. Even Basketball City owners have their own team, which includes founder Radler and Commissioner Ira Berday, who pop out of their offices and don their high tops to play for pure love of the game. Then it’s back to the office to sharpen their pencils to fine tune the details of the upcoming prestigious Boys’ Club Holiday Classic, held Dec. 17-18, where prep school, college and even NBA scouts flock to observe the players. The boys can once again prove that city kids not only “got game,” but finally have state-of-the-art facilities, thanks to Radler and Berday, who took their own “hoop dreams” and converted a dilapidated warehouse into the magnificent Basketball City.

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