Monday, June 30, 2003

Spokane

What goes up, gets torn down
Volunteers remove backboards and restore normalcy to downtown Spokane streets
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Rob McDonald
Staff writer

Like ants raiding a picnic, hundreds of volunteers dismantled the basketball courts Sunday and transformed the village of Hoopfest back into the streets of Spokane.

Former Hoopfest board chairman Dave Jackson drove one of six rented forklifts that carried the dismantled equipment into designated areas to be loaded onto trucks.

Jackson had been involved since the early days of 35 wooden backboards. Now he helps set up and break down 400 courts.

"You work your way up," Jackson
said, smiling from his swift ride.

Before the final game of the event began at 6:15 p.m. Sunday at center court in Riverfront Park, Sprague and Riverside avenues and Spokane Falls Boulevard already were growing quiet.

"By 11 o'clock this evening, you'll drive these streets and you won't even know the largest three-on-three basketball tournament was here," Jackson said, awaiting further directions via an ear piece. "It always amazes me."

Early Sunday afternoon, as the first bracket title games started to wrap, the transmutation began.

About 3:30 p.m., volunteers such as Kelly Hill began patrolling their assigned areas. For the past five years, Hill has been responsible for taking down the mobile hoops on Riverside from Howard Street to Monroe Street.

When the games end, Hill starts working even as the winning team is still pulling up the court-marking tape from the pavement.

Hill brought a little extra help this year, his twin 10-year-olds, Travis and Curtis, who shot hoops as he worked on tearing down the structures supporting the backboards and baskets.

"Hey guys, would you help me with this?" Hill said as his boys kept tossing up shots and trying to dunk on one of the lowered hoops. "I need a wrench on this one."

On each support structure, Hill removed two pins, then lowered the backboard and hoop from 10 feet to about five feet. Using a cordless DeWalt drill, he then unbolted and removed the rim from the backboard. Finally, his boys attached the metal hoop to the support base with a large plastic tie, and another package was ready for the fork lifts.

"My job is absolutely easy," said Hill, who sets mobile homes for a company called Home Boys when not volunteering for Hoopfest. He said he feels for the volunteers stuck in the sun all day at courtside keeping scores. "With this (job) you get to come down and enjoy Hoopfest."

Possibly the best volunteer job is the one held by Rob Cameron, 21, a recent college grad who's been driving trucks since he was 15.

Late Sunday afternoon, he was sitting in the air-conditioned cab of a truck as a ground crew made up mostly of inmates from the Geiger Corrections Center fanned out to gather tables, chairs and other pieces of equipment from about 100 courts.

From behind the wheel, Cameron could watch the people as the event wound down.

"It's a fun atmosphere down here," Cameron said. "People from all walks of life come here."

Another bonus of being a volunteer is having free reign over the mostly empty streets in downtown Spokane.

Sea Cadet Beth Windsor, 13, took a few moments from sweeping the streets to practice her flag waving routine. Near a handful of new friends from Ferris and Lewis and Clark high schools, Windsor spun her broom around like a propeller.

"I was just being bored," Windsor said later. But she'll be back next year. "It was cool being out of the house."

Even after the streets are cleared and swept, some business still will need to be cleaned up.

On Sunday night, Hoopfest's "lost and found" box contained several wallets, purses, checkbooks, credit cards, cell phones, lipsticks and a leg brace. Volunteers were trying to contact owners, often without success.

So, attention Mr. Williams of Hermiston, Ore.: Hoopfest has your wallet.


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