Until recently, the basketball court at DeHart Park, in Cincinnati, was in bad shape: The center of the court sunk down dangerously, and the surface corners had washed away. 

"It had been a few years since it was safe and playable," says Wayne Lurix, administrative specialist for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

Restoring a City Basketball Court

Hoop Dreams: Sprite Spruces Up Local Parks

DeHart Park in Cincinnati before the restoration made possible by the grant.

With a $15,000 grant from the Sprite Spark Parks Project, the commission put in a new drainage system, added four coats of a color coating to weather-protect it, and added a floor of new asphalt. The work has brought new people to the neighborhood park located in the Walnut Hill neighborhood on the east side of the city, Lurix said. In addition to the basketball courts, there is a playground and picnic area. Cincinnati's commission is now having a park sign made to adorn the fence line.

"The park was used before, but now the residents have all the benefits," Lurix adds. "It's unbelievable how many youth and adults came out to see the finished product. It was long overdue, and we couldn't have done it without the award."

Revitalizing 32 Parks in Two Years

Hoop Dreams: Sprite Spruces Up Local Parks

The basketball court in DeHart Park was barely safe to use due to cracks and sunken areas on the court which is why the grant was so transformative. 

The Sprite Spark Parks Project is a multiyear, $2 million effort to refresh neighborhood basketball courts across the United States. The program started in February 2011, and seven $35,000 grants were handed out that first year.

Working with the National Recreation and Park Association, Sprite and program partners identified 25 neighborhood parks across the country to address in 2012. They asked community members to vote on the projects, which received various levels of support, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, based on the number of votes.

"Everyone in the office was voting, and we were watching it every day," Lurix says. "We were pleased with how the community rallied behind it."

Making a Difference for Teens in Seattle

A lucky park in Seattle was one of the recipients of the 2012 Sprite Spark Parks project. 

The city received $10,000 to refurbish Pratt Park, one of the few covered and lighted basketball courts in the city, says Linda Hubert, project director for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Pratt Park is located in Seattle's inner city, where, according to the U.S. Census, the population is nearly 60 percent people of color. Some 20 percent of residents are under the age of 18, and just 12 percent of the housing units are owner-occupied, she says.

After receiving the Sprite award, Hubert and other staff members from the division surveyed the basketball court to see what changes needed to be made. Because the court is covered, they decided the asphalt was too dark and they needed to remove a logo in the middle of the court that belonged to a team that was no longer in the city.

Upgrades to the court included a lighter color coating that enabled the keys to be a different color, Hubert says. The court was finished in September.

"The renovated basketball courts provide a great place for the diverse neighborhood to gather and instill community pride," she says. "This is a neighborhood that really benefits from the Sprite Spark Parks program."

Big Turnout for Fixed-Up Texas Park

Near Houston, the City of Hunstville received $35,000 in 2011 to upgrade its Kate Barr Ross Park basketball court.

"We have been real thrilled with everything that came our way," says Sherry McKibben, community development specialist for Huntsville. "We were shocked at how many people were using the new court. Most of the time, you see baseball and soccer teams because they are organized. The ones using this court are there for pick-up games or kids wanting to shoot hoops."

The funds were used to fix up the court, replace equipment and upgrade the asphalt. The city also held an art competition to find a local artist or group of artists to add a creative “spark” to the basketball court in the form of a large-scale mural at center court.

The court, which is across the street from where city employees work, has seen heavy use since its completion, says McKibben. "The citizens absolutely love this. When we go to work at 7 a.m., people are out there playing. It is in constant use, and it is all ages."

When the court opened in March with a "March Madness" theme, more than 100 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Walker County and the YMCA of Huntsville participated in a mini-basketball camp at the site, and the Sam Houston State women’s basketball team held drills there to encourage healthy, active living among youth.

These are just a few of the stories from this year’s grant recipients. Read more about all of the 2012 Sparks Parks winners as well as other Coca-Cola efforts to revitalize community parks.