Guy Benjamin School Closure and Marina Rumors Not Stopping Coral Bay Basketball Court Renovations

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Time is of the essence, as the Rotary Club of St. John takes the lead to update the Coral Bay community’s only basketball court.

Despite the recent closure of Guy Benjamin School and widespread rumors that a marina is slated for the area, Rotary Club of St. John members are still committed to renovating the dilapidated Coral Bay basketball court through fundraising and in kind donations.

“Of course Rotary is going ahead with the renovations,” said Rotary Club of St. John member and Coral Bay Community Council president Sharon Coldren. “The renovations have nothing to do with the status of the school. The kids and adults of St. John still need that court.”

Rotary members kicked off a campaign to renovate the run-down court — which lacks nets, backboards and a functioning bleacher area — back in March with the goal of raising $50,000 from the community for the project.

The project will not be funded by the V.I. government, yet the government did execute an agreement between the Moravian Church Conference, which owns the land, and Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, which will oversee the renovations once the funds are raised by Rotary. The land, Parcel 10 Estate Emmaus, is currently under a 100 year lease to T-Rex St. John, LLC, which plans to construct a marina, hotel and restaurant on the property, according to wide-spread rumors.

While Rotary Club officials have raised $40,000 so far for the project, the nearby elementary school was recently shuttered by the Department of Education and rumors have been rampant about the likelihood of the marina development moving forward by T-Rex.

The school’s closing, however, doesn’t mean youth and adults in the area don’t still need recreation facilities and even if a marina is built, it is likely years away, according to Coldren.

“We need a basketball court now,” said Coldren. “The written agreement between the Moravian Church Conference and the V.I. Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation says that if they get approval for a development on the property, the developer has to build a new basketball court elsewhere on the land.”

“I see that as being a minimum of four to five years away,” she said.

The project calls for resurfacing the existing court and repairing the bleachers, goals and baskets — to the tune of about $50,000 with in kind donations — as opposed to the cost it would run of constructing a whole new court, Coldren added.

“If we were building a 30 year basketball court, like they did in Cruz Bay, we’d be talking about a $250,000 project like in Cruz Bay,” Coldren said. “But what we’re talking about are renovations to the basketball court we have. We’re repairing the court with the understanding that it will likely be used for five to 10 years.”

“And we understand that developers will put in a new court before having this basketball court being turned into an alternate use,” she said. “Contributing to this project is a promise of a continued public basketball court in Coral Bay.”

The renovations come a year after lighting in the area was upgraded thanks to a federal LED grant, making costly electrical upgrades unnecessary, Coldren added.

Rotary members hope to raise the final $10,000 needed and realize savings from vendors, the CBCC president explained.

“We’re hoping to make up the rest with additional contributions this summer as well as in kind donations,” said Coldren. “We are talking with vendors of asphalt and fencing and bleacher wood to see what deals they can give us in terms of discounts so we can meet that target expenditure of $50,000.”

“Some of the items we need are very expensive, so we’re going to need help with the companies who supply those vendors like barge travel and gravel,” she said. “We will need help from them with reduced costs in order to make this work.”

Rotary Club officials continue to accept donations to the basketball court renovation project which will be successful only with community support, Coldren added.

“We recognize that the whole community will contribute one way or another to make this happen,” she said. “We’re still encouraging donations and we also need those vendors who can provide some of the things we need to do so at a discounted rate. That is what we’re counting.”

Renovations, which also include painting lines to make the court available for volleyball and pickle-ball use, are still expected to be complete by September, according to Coldren.

“The project should be complete by early September but at this point we don’t have an exact date since we don’t need to have the court finished by the time school opens,” she said.

Rotary Club of St. John is accepting tax deductible donations to the Coral Bay basketball court refurbishment. Checks, with “Coral Bay basketball court” written in the memo line, can be made out to Rotary Club of St. John Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 710, St. John, VI, 00831.

For more information, call Coral Bay Community Council president Sharon Coldren at (340) 776-2099.