by Scott DCamp
What was widely considered Thief River Falls’ worst outdoor basketball court is now its absolute best.
Monday afternoon, the new basketball court at Bill LaFave Park was unveiled by the Minnesota Timberwolves and U.S. Bank.
The court received a refurbishment as part of the Timberwolves’ “Our Courts. Our Future” program presented by U.S. Bank and was the winning court in northern Minnesota after beating out Grand Rapids and Erskine in online voting.
The court at Bill LaFave Park was refurbished at no cost to the city. Local contractor Fynboh Construction poured the concrete for the backboard pole footings. The remainder of the work was done by contractors affiliated with the Timberwolves.
The court surface is a state of the art surface called suspended sport court flooring. The surface, which reduces impact while producing a predictable bounce, allows water to drain from the court to prevent slipping. It has a 30-year life expectancy and a 15-year warranty.
Jennifer Ridgeway, vice president of social responsibility with the Minnesota Timberwolves, welcomed the crowd that gathered at Bill LaFave Park for the court unveiling and applauded the Thief River Falls community for its voting and community engagement.
“Our Courts. Our Futures Program Presented by US Bank is a wonderful partnership between the Minnesota Timberwolves and U.S. Bank,” Ridgeway said. “It really signifies our strong, intentional effort to support our community, and our youth and wellness promoting the game of basketball in our communities.
“We certainly look forward to seeing the long-term impact of this court in your community.”
Troy Hudson spent five of his 10 years in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he got his start, like many of today’s youth basketball players, by playing on outdoor courts.
“Growing up, most of my days were spent outside, playing on outside basketball courts,” Hudson said. “I played 10 years in the NBA, but I played 21 years on the playground.”
Hudson said playing on outdoor courts shaped him as a player.
“The playground is a place where you can be an individual,” Hudson said. “That’s where you start shaping your own game. There’s no coaches out here. There’s no referees, so you find out who you are as a player on the playground.”
“This is a beautiful park,” Hudson said. “And now, thanks to U.S. Bank and the Minnesota Timberwolves, you have a beautiful court to play on.”
Mayor Brian Holmer extended a Thief River Falls welcome to the Timberwolves organization and U.S. Bank before providing a brief history of the park.
Bill LaFave Park was created in 1923 under the name Tindolph Point. Holmer credited Bill LaFave with putting a lot of time into the city’s parks, and in 1972, Tindolph Point was renamed Bill LaFave Park.
“This is a legacy going on, that we are going to add this court to this park,” Holmer said. “It’s going to add to our community revitalization and bring more people to town. We’ll utilize it on our own, as well as bring more people into our community.”
Mark Borseth, public works director with the City of Thief River Falls, rallied community support both years that the city competed for a new court. Monday, he said the court will be enjoyed by many at its spot along the river for a long time to come.
Borseth noted that program not only gives the Timberwolves a chance to publicize their mission and grow interest in basketball, but it also provided an opportunity for the Thief River Falls community to rally together for a common cause, to win the competition for the basketball court.
“Our community has a rich history in basketball, and it continues to be strong in the Backcourt Club, the School District 564 Prowlers, and even the Northland Pioneers,” Borseth said. “Through this program, we have learned that we can count on one-another for a common cause when we all voted for Thief River Falls in the Our Courts, Our Future Program.”
Borseth also thanked Mike Olson and the City of Thief River Falls parks staff for their effort in maintaining the city parks, and the City Council for dedicating resources to pay for the assets and allowing the city to apply for the Our Courts, Our Future program.
U.S. Bank Community Regional President Delton Steele credited the Timberwolves for making the partnership work.
“Without our partnership with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the role that US Bank plays in this would not be possible,” Steele said. “This part of what we call Community Possible. It’s all about investing in areas, in communities where we live, work and play. “We’ve had this program now for a few years and it keeps getting better and better all the time.”