MANCHESTER — The former basketball court at Harriman Park will be converted to a parking lot, following an upgrade for the small, center-city park that Manchester aldermen approved this week.
In doing so, a majority of aldermen sided with Alderman Ed Osborne and city officials, who said they did not want to see basketball return to the park, which is located at the corner of Lake Avenue and Hall Street.
They rebuffed efforts by Mayor Ted Gatsas and Alderman Joyce Craig to restore basketball hoops, which were removed years ago.
"Harriman Park has been one of the really under-utilized (parks) in some regards because of the deterioration of park facilities, and the over-utilization by elements we really don't want to have in the park," said Leon Lafreniere, director of planning and community development for the city.
Manchester has a shortage of full-court basketball in the city as compared with demand. While four courts exist on the West Side, the larger east side of the city has only three outdoor courts.
Plans for a Harriman Park upgrade follow the recent restoration of the nearby Odd Fellows Hall into an office building for social service agencies. The city wants to provide parking at the former basketball court. Also, it recently bought two houses adjacent to the park and will use the property for park expansion.
Alderman Craig noted that the park has historically hosted a basketball court. She said parking could be located several blocks away at the Sealtest building redevelopment project.
"The parking doesn't need to be there. We need that space for the neighborhood," Craig said.
Jessica Chambers, parks planner for the city, said most people play basketball from 5 p.m. to sundown. But she said lighting planned for Harriman Park, which is located in a dense neighborhood of homes and businesses, would likely keep ball players at the park much later.
Aldermen voted to spend $60,000 for the first phase of the park, which includes converting the former basketball court to a 19-car parking lot, improving sidewalks and adding conduit for electric lines. In the future, the city hopes to add lighting, landscaping, fencing and playground equipment.
Earlier this summer, Osborne said he has problems with basketball playing late at night and has had several hoops removed from his his ward, including Harriman Park. Neighbors, he said, complain about late-night basketball games.
This week, Osborne said he likes basketball and suggested a court be built at the Gill Stadium parking lot at Beech and Valley streets.