Mansion moving to Lakemont

By Neil Rudel

Lakemont Park has confirmed it will be home for the next generation of the Central Blair Recreation Basketball League, held for the previous 50 years at Mansion Park.

Lakemont Park co-owner Ralph Albarano said the park is investing $300,000 for an outdoor basketball complex that will include four courts, lighting, bleachers, scoreboards and rest rooms.

“It became a great fit,” Melissa Vyborny, Albarano’s daughter and the park’s spokesperson, said. “That league is so community oriented, and it’s so popular. We thought it would give the park some community things. This is going to be one of the projects for the renovations.”

The basketball courts will be part of a significant makeover for the park, which has been closed for renovations this summer.

“We are thrilled that the Central Blair Recreation Commission selected Lakemont Park as the venue for the men’s summer basketball league,” Andrea Devorris Cohen, whose family co-owns the park along with Albarano. “It fits in well with our mission to re-position the park as a community centerpiece with outdoor recreation, attractions and special events for all ages. We are working with CBRC, our site engineers and construction team on the specifications and placement of four new basketball courts in order to best meet the needs of our community.”

Keller Engineers is handling the design. The courts will be located roughly in the middle of the park, near where the miniature golf course existed.

Mike Hofer, CBRC executive director, is also pleased with the 15-year agreement in which CBRC will provide an annual stipend of approximately $1,500 annually.

“It’s a minimal amount that we believe is very fair,” Hofer said. “Very similar to our contract with the (Altoona Area) school district (at Mansion Park). I think it’s an outstanding opportunity.”

“What we’re hoping to gain isn’t so much a rental fee from the Rec Commission but getting people — players and spectators — into the park,” Vyborny said, adding concession stands will be open.

When the league steadily expanded through 1980s, games were held nightly at Mansion Park and the Leopold courts, opposite Altoona Area High School.

With Mansion’s courts giving way to new tennis courts, and the Leopold courts lost in the construction of Altoona’s new high school, the four courts at Lakemont will provide CBRC with one location.

“Any problems that arise, I will be there, and I can oversee it,” Skip Dry, who plans to return for his 41st year as league director, said. “It’s a lot better for me to handle a situation immediately rather than having to wait until the night’s over.”

This year’s playoffs were contested at the Pleasant Valley Elementary School’s three outdoor courts, but there were no lights.

“It (Lakemont) is going to a beautiful facility with four courts together — with lighting and parking and bathrooms,” Dry said. “Everything is going to be a lot better — for the league and for everybody.”

Hofer initially approached the Lakemont group about installing two courts, knowing Leopold’s courts were going.

“Those (Leopold) courts were never the greatest to begin with so we’ve always been looking at what our options are,” he said. “When I found out the Mansion courts were going away, I went back (to Lakemont) and said, ‘We talked about two (courts). What are the chances of getting four and hosting this league?’ They were extremely interested. We never really went anywhere else. The Albaranos and the Devorrises were so supportive of hosting this, it’s really the only option we pursued.”

Last year’s Mansion league had 44 teams, each paying an entry fee of $475.

Hofer said the new league has not yet been named, but Lakemont is working on a name and a logo.

“We’re looking for growth,” Hofer said. “I feel once people see the plans for the courts and see them constructed and see what the Lakemont Partnership will put in there, I’m confident teams will want to come and play there.”

Hofer said the CBRC board was “very happy” with the move.

Games will once again be played from Monday through Thursday nights, “which are our slower times,” Vyborny said.

Vyborny said other plans for the park will be presented next month.

“We will have a map in mid-September,” she said. “We think this is a great fit. They needed a home, and we were looking for things to bring the community into the park.”