It was a harsh winter in the River Wards this year—look no further than the record-setting number of potholes and around-the-clock water main breaks. No exterior or interior surface was spared, and the indoor basketball court of Samuel Recreation Center at 3549 Gaul St. in Port Richmond was no exception.
Amid constant use and a parade of salt-caked sneakers running up and down the court, the condition of the floor deteriorated. Void of coating to provide grip, the surface became slippery.
According to Jamie Lohse, the facility supervisor of Samuel, each individual facility is responsible for maintaining the floors. The floor had last been refinished about five years ago, Lohse said.
Lohse brought up the condition of the floor in casual conversation to Vince Ovecka, a Port Richmond native who sometimes plays pick-up basketball and soccer games at the center, and asked if he’d want to help.
Knowing firsthand the condition of the floor, Ovecka easily agreed.
“I noticed the floors were in pretty bad shape,” Ovecka said. “You can mop it, you can sweep it, but it’s not going to give the grip that’s needed.”
After getting approval from the Department of Recreation, Lohse arranged for a local floor company, T Kevin Flooring, to refinish the floor. All work, which included sanding and coating the floor with varnish, was completed on Thursday, April 17.
The total cost of the project was $2,300, all of which Ovecka donated.
While the work on the floor may seem like a small improvement, it has larger implications.
“This affects the rec because we can now offer more programs in the gym and all participants who do utilize our gym are safe and do not have to worry about slipping,” Lohse said.
Many of those participants include youth basketball players from the neighborhood.
Port Richmond native Joe Lamb coaches Our Lady of Port Richmond’s Catholic Youth Organization varsity basketball team and runs a spring basketball camp at A&W playground, both groups that occasionally use the indoor court at the recreation center.
“It was in bad condition,” Lamb said. “It was slippery and really needed to be done.”
A few days after work was completed, Lamb took his son to the court to practice and noted that the floors looked and felt brand new.
“It’s a nice thing that someone who has success like Vinny gives back to the neighborhood,” Lamb said. “People don’t even know most of the things he does for kids in the neighborhood. That’s what makes the neighborhood a nice place.”
Aside from the recent floor project, Ovecka, a State Farm agent with an office in Fishtown, sponsors—usually by paying for uniforms—many local sports organizations, including both Lamb’s elementary school team and camp, which has more than 100 participants.
Although he now lives in New Jersey, Ovecka believes being a good neighbor is his duty as a local business owner.
“It’s important to me because I have a business in the community and I believe in giving back,” he said. “Unfortunately with me living in Mount Laurel, I don’t get to be as physically involved as I would like, so this feels like at least one way I can make a difference and help out.” ••
Melissa Komar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.