After winning a $25,000 donation for the village, all that Dom DeFrank wanted was for the cracked, aging
basketball courts he’d loved as a kid to be renovated, with fresh pavement and new equipment, then dedicated to his late father.
DeFrank hadn’t even thought about another use for the money. He’d won it – the grand prize – this past fall in Powerade’s “Rise With Rose” nationwide contest. He’d submitted a photo of himself standing in his Lowellville backyard, a basketball in one hand and a bottle of Powerade in the other.
Work was supposed to begin this summer. The courts, at the 52 Rocket Place school complex, were supposed to be ready by fall.
But just a couple of weeks ago, DeFrank learned that the money he’d won wasn’t enough for the project he’d envisioned. It would cost at least $15,000 more.
Now, village officials are mulling an entirely different location for a new set of basketball courts.
“I’m bummed out about it,” said the 18-year-old DeFrank, who graduated from Lowellville High School in June. “I grew up down there, and I’m still going to go down there. It’s hard when you grow up somewhere and are used to the atmosphere.”
The courts now proposed by the village would be in a wide-open area on River Road, between the railroad tracks and the river, and the village would lease the property, 200 feet by 140 feet, from Sharon Slag, a stone-crushing business, said Mayor James Iudiciani Sr.
DeFrank, however, said the proposed area is more isolated, and he worries about the safety of children who might go there. If it’s the only way the money can be spent, though, he’d rather have the alternate plan go into motion than for the donation to go to waste.
“The grant was given to us in January,” DeFrank said. “I wish that somebody would’ve gotten on top of it then.”
Iudiciani noted that the property would be an ideal location for the basketball courts, as they could be the start of a future park on the village’s south side.
“To fix [the existing courts], it costs more than that,” Iudiciani said. “It’s very difficult and a lot more expensive job than a $25,000 grant can pay for.”
He noted that the village approached the Lowellville Board of Education about taking on the extra cost, but the school board wanted to split that amount with the village. Iudiciani said doing so isn’t feasible at this time, especially as the village already has spent about $1,000 on the project’s engineering costs.
A decision must be made by the end of July – or sooner.
DeFrank stressed that he’s still committed to his original goal, and has even started an online fundraiser – available at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/lowellville-basketball-court-fundraiser/200286 – to help transform it into reality. So far, $130 has been raised.
Read more about the project in Wednesday''s Vindicator or on Vindy.com.