CRBC to construct new park

One site to feature unique basketball game

On Thursday, for the second time in two days, it was announced that a church group has donated property on Sixth Avenue at 23rd Street so a secular organization can create a facility to benefit the community.

In the first case, the Simpson-Temple United Parish congregation gave its church complex just north of 23rd Street so ArtsAltoona can establish a center for artistic performance and education.

In the second, the Mount Moriah Christian Fellowship gave a lot just south of 23rd Street that was once to be the site of a church to the Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission to build a park.

It will be the first park to be constructed entirely from scratch in the Altoona Area in a generation, and it will include equipment for an innovative new game, said CBRC Executive Director Mike Hofer at a meeting Thursday.

Park development is one of his “favorite things,” and the approximately 125-by-120-foot Sixth Avenue site will be the first to be fully developed since Greenwood Park around the turn of this century, he said.

It will feature a setup for “bankshot basketball,” which is equivalent to “HORSE on steroids,” Hofer said. He likes to introduce new games to the area and hates “to build the same park time after time,” he said. He’s hoping the sight of the game being played by the many people who pass by on Sixth Avenue will help bankshot take hold, as pickleball has taken hold, after the commission constructed courts at its park in Cherry Grove, he said.

A descriptive flyer shared at the meeting compared bankshot basketball to mini-golf.

Players “proceed through a course of angled, curved and non-conventionally configured, brightly colored backboards” banking shots into baskets. Each station’s backboard is shaped differently, with some stations requiring players to bounce a ball off two backboards in succession, the flyer states. “Some diabolically maddening shots have three (backboards) and two rims,” the flyer states.

Each station has three “positions,” and players take two shots from each, before moving on to the next station.

The game is suitable for anyone, regardless of age, health, ability and skill set, according to Hofer and the flyer.

There will also be an accessible playground, a pavilion, trees, benches and a parking lot at the site.

Access will be from the alley and there will be a 10-foot-high fence around the park, all to ensure safety — given the steady flow of traffic on the avenue, Hofer said.

The city last year allocated $150,000 in Community Development Block Grant money for Phase 1 of the project, which the commission hopes to complete this year, Hofer said.

The commission may apply for a comparable amount this year for the second and final phase, which it hopes to complete next year, Hofer said.

The site is in a neighborhood that needs a park, as the closest one now is Prospect, a “pretty good hike” away, Hofer said.

The city became interested in the site after Mayor Matt Pacifico got a call more than a year ago from the Rev. Denise Arpino, former pastor at Simpson, asking whether the city had any plans for it, Hofer said.

Hofer and Pacifico met with Arpino and shared the park idea.

After learning of its ownership, they met with Donna Grove, widow of Mount Moriah Pastor Joffery Grove, who’d died in 2001 — before the congregation could follow through on plans to build a church on the site, which they’d acquired many years before, according to Donna Grove.

The ground had been for sale for at least a year before the meeting, Grove said.

Hofer and Pacifico asked about purchasing the property.

At that point, though, selling didn’t seem the best option.

“I felt led in the Lord, in my heart, that it was time to release the property and let the city have it,” Grove said.

The city representatives were surprised and “gracious,” Grove said.

She and her husband wanted to build an “edifice” on the lot to serve the neighborhood, just like the Simpson church and Sacred Heart nearby have done for many years, Grove said.

But their congregation was small.

It averaged about 35 members, who would attend services on Sundays at R Waffle King restaurant, which later became Nicoletta’s Family Restaurant, and prayer and Bible study on Wednesdays at the offices of the Community Action Agency, Grove said.

The building project “just didn’t pan out,” Grove said.

Her husband died of a blood clot.

The city’s creation of a park on the site will go at least part of the way toward fulfilling the original hope of creating a benefit for the neighborhood on the ground they’d bought so long ago, Grove agreed.

“Something for the community,” she said.

Grove had to be persuaded to discuss the gift, after being contacted by phone following the meeting.

“I’m not one for the limelight,” she said.

God should get the glory, she said.

“It’s all for Him, anyway,” she added.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.


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