Graham Kilmer

Sherman Park Could Get New Basketball Court

Dallas-based Nancy Lieberman Charities has offered to fund a "dream court."

By - Apr 23rd, 2021 11:07 am
Sup. Felesia Martin. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County.

Sup. Felesia Martin. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County.

Sherman Park is getting a new basketball court.

Nancy Lieberman Charities, based in Dallas, Texas, has offered to donate a new basketball court and funding for programming in the park.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Felesia Martin has been working with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks, the Sherman Park Community Association and Near West Side Partners on a project called Reimagining Sherman Park.

Martin, along with the partners, hosted listening sessions soliciting ideas for ways “revitalize and reactivate” the park, and something that kept coming up was a new basketball court and a basketball program.

“Lo and behold we get a call, after much discussion, from the Nancy Lieberman Charities foundation approaching us with a gift to refurbish our basketball court,” Martin said.

Traci Choate, vice president for the non-profit, said the organization partnered with Fiserv, the financial services technology company that bought the naming rights to the Milwaukee Bucks’ arena, to bring a basketball court to the county parks department and “the park that was decided on was Sherman Park.”

The project is what the foundation calls a “dream court.” Along with funding rehabilitation of the court with “sport court” surfacing and new hoops, the foundation will also fund educational and civic engagement programming around the courts. “We’re not a one-and-done organization,” Choate said.

The charity built a “dream court” in Racine in 2019.

The plan was to accept the approximately $90,000 donation this spring. Then the snow melted and it was realized that the concrete slab foundation for the court needed to be rebuilt before the new court could be built on top.

So Supervisor Martin sponsored a resolution to take $141,000 from a contingency account and use it to rebuild the concrete slab for the basketball court. The Milwaukee County Board approved the fund transfer Thursday, opening the door for the parks department to accept the donation.

The project, Martin said, is an opportunity to let the residents of the Sherman Park neighborhood know “they are not forgotten and let them know that they are worthy of investment as well.”

When the proposal was brought the the county board’s Finance Committee, Sup. Liz Sumner wondered why the project funding needed to come from an account for contingencies instead of going through the regular capital financing process.

Martin said the donation was time sensitive, and the county needed to accept it before the end of April. Therefore, it needed to approve financing for the reconstruction of the base before the end of April, as well.

Sup. Shawn Rolland asked why there was such a hard deadline for accepting the donation.

“They give out gifts with time frames attached to those gifts,” Martin said.

Choate told the committee Sherman Park “was our first choice.” But she also said the charity would be willing to walk away from the project if the donation wasn’t accepted by the end of the month. Choate said they cycle through gifts from donors “very quickly.”

“We don’t sit on them long, we have to get them off of our plate,” she said.

Martin said the project was an example of the complications that deferred maintenance causes for the county and the parks system. In 2019, the Wisconsin Policy Forum released a report that estimated the parks would have more than $400 million worth of backlogged capital projects by 2023.

Martin urged the committee to approve the fund transfer, saying, “When a gift walks through the door and lands on your table you don’t turn it away.”

When the proposal was before the full board, Sup. Jason Haas, chair of the board’s Finance Committee, and former chair of the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee said he thought the project was a great use of the contingency fund. “Let’s make this happen,” he said.

Editor’s note: After this article was originally written, but before it was published, an 17-year-old male was fatally shot at the existing basketball courts. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office has not released more information at this point.

Categories: Health, MKE County, Parks, Weekly

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