With Shaq’s help, the outdoor courts at Doolittle Center are ready for prime time

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Steve marcus

Basketball Hall of Fame member Shaquille O’Neal speaks with players on Saturday, October 23, 2021, at the opening of Shaq Courts, two renovated basketball courts at the Doolittle Community Center. The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and its partner Icy Hot donated $ 200,000 for the Westside Historic District Center Renovation Project.

Edrick Dickens had long had a vision of what a night of basketball would look like on the newly renovated outdoor courts at Doolittle Community Center in Las Vegas.

There are only standing places on the newly installed covered bleachers, a host is on the pitch to energize supporters, and some of the city’s top baseball players challenge each other. And, of course, the game is physical – extremely physical.

Doolittle, on J Street in Lake Mead Boulevard, has been home to the best basketball in town for over 50 years. City legends like Michael “Spiderman” Burns and “Sudden” Sam Smith, who both played at UNLV, or former NBA player CJ Watson first had to prove themselves in the gym in the United States. center against neighborhood players.

This proving ground, thanks to a donation of $ 200,000 from the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and its business partner Icy Hot, now also includes a pair of outdoor courts with all the bells and whistles worthy of the undisputed landing site. city ​​for recreational basketball players.

Upgrades, which debuted last week, include: a new coating, custom colors and graphics on the ground, new basketball goals, shaded bleachers that can accommodate 1,000 spectators and a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard .

“Basketball has always been about Doolittle,” said Dickens, city recreation coordinator and director of the Doolittle Center. “It takes it to another level.”

Before the pandemic, Dickens was working with Zappos and the Las Vegas Aces to renovate the hardtop courts, hoping to move the outdoor setting to what’s seen at Rucker Park in New York or Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The games at these locations are legendary, and Dickens strongly believes that the competition at Doolittle will achieve a similar status as well.

Dickens is from the area near Doolittle and grew up playing – and watching – games at the center. More importantly, he points out, a new generation will have similar memories thanks to the donation.

“When they approached us with this opportunity, it was all we had talked about before and developed,” Dickens said. “It was just an amazing opportunity to involve Shaq.”

“The Shaq Courts” at Doolittle also includes an art installation of a life-size pair of the NBA legend’s shoes. O’Neal, a Las Vegas resident, is proud to be an active part of his adopted hometown, showing up at the court opening last weekend and testing the new rims with local kids .

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to continue living here,” O’Neal told The Sun earlier this month. “I’m mainly in Atlanta and Las Vegas, that’s where people see me all along. of the year. People see me doing ordinary people’s things in Las Vegas, like going to Walmart or Target. With my foundation, that’s why we chose Las Vegas and Atlanta. I want to take care of the places I screw.

O’Neal started his foundation a few years ago to create a path for underprivileged children to reach their potential, making numerous contributions to the Boys & Girls Club and Communities in Schools programs in Las Vegas and Atlanta. He also has a home in Atlanta, where he works for TNT as a basketball commentator.

Cedric Crear, the Las Vegas city councilor whose neighborhood includes Doolittle, is linked to O’Neal through Perry Rogers, the great basketball player’s agent who also lives in Las Vegas.

Everyone agreed with Crear’s pitch for O’Neal to help elevate the Doolitte complex, a community landing place with everything from a senior center and pool to classes. arts and crafts and after-school programs. The donation was made to the city’s philanthropic partner, The Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, and covered most of the cost of the renovation.

“These will be the grounds to come and play ball in the city,” Crear said. “I think people are going to come not only from the community but from all over the country to play.”

Crear’s passion for improving the area is personal, as he hails from the Historic Westside – roughly the area north of US 95, south of Carey Avenue and Lake Mead Boulevard, to the east of Rancho Drive and west of Interstate 15. The Historic Westside logo which is part of the CENT plan – Historic Urban District Design Redevelopment – connecting the area’s past to the present is found on Center Court .

Like Dickens, Crear will tell you that those long childhood days spent at Doolittle helped spur his ambitions to make his old playground an escape for the next generation.

The courts are a large window to the rest of the complex. In addition to the unscripted pickup games played by anyone in the park, the courts can also be rented for events like 3v3 tournaments.

“If I tell you, ‘Hey meet me at Shaq Court,’ you’ll know where this is,” Crear said.


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