Sunday, June 11, 2000

Players, city tangle over pickup games

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Cincinnati councilman has offered to step in to try to resolve a dispute about pickup basketball games in Over-the-Rhine that has the organizers of the loose-knit games at odds with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

        The basketball games were moved Saturday afternoon to a different park in the neighborhood after organizers said city officials removed a basketball rim last week from a court at 12th and Spring streets.

        Officials with the CRC could not be reached for comment, but Councilman Paul Booth said Saturday that he wants to meet next week with CRC officials and Tony Gaulden, one of the organizers of the impromptu games.

        Mr. Gaulden and others say they were dislodged from the basketball court after the city complained about the crowds and litter. They say they had asked for more garbage cans and provided their own garbage bags.

        Saturday, the organizers moved the games to a basketball court at McMicken Avenue and Dunlap Street. Clear plastic garbage bags, provided by the organizers, sprouted from the chain-link fence surrounding the court.

        “In a nutshell, we just want a place to play,” said Tarrice Gibson, an organizer of the games.

        “We're not going to stop playing 'til they take down every rim in the city,” said Lenny Hughley, another organizer. “That's no solution — we're asking them to work with us.”

        The neighborhood is poor. They say they cannot afford the fees for organized leagues.

        “We never expected it to come to this,” Mr. Gaulden said.

        They said they didn't expect their games to attract crowds numbering a few hundred. Teams come from across the city, mostly from Over-the-Rhine, but also the West End, Avondale, Walnut Hills and the west side of town.

        “It started out as just Over-the-Rhine and then the word got around, bring a team,” Mr. Gaulden said.

        “They don't want us to stand on the corners, now they don't want us to play basketball,” added Mr. Hughley.

        “My concern is we want to do everything we can to accommodate (Mr. Gaulden), but at the same time, if the numbers are growing, we want to be sure we have all the safety procedures in place,” Mr. Booth said. “I think it's a situation we can resolve.”

        Mr. Gaulden said Saturday he plans to get in touch with Mr. Booth this weekend.


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