Welcome to The Jungle

Published: Tue 15 Sep 2015 09:16 AM
Welcome to The Jungle
New and improved streetball court opens at Otamariki Park.
Big turnout from Otara-Papatoetoe to celebrate new community asset.
Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Chair Fa'anānā Efeso Collins, CEO for Spark Home, Mobile and Business Jason Paris, and members of the Otara-Papatoetoe community turned out to open the new basketball court at Otamariki Park on Saturday.
South Auckland streetballers, local basketball stars and supporters form the Otara-Papatoetoe community turned out to celebrate the opening of the brand new streetball court – nicknamed The Jungle – on Saturday 12 September. The court has been built by Spark at Otara’s Otamariki Park and a day of basketball tournaments, prizes, music and a sausage sizzle was provided free for the local community.
The new court was formally blessed on Friday morning by local Kaumatua Te Akitai Waiohua and was officially opened Saturday morning by Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Chair Fa'anānā Efeso Collins, CEO for Spark Home, Mobile and Business Jason Paris, and members of the Otara-Papatoetoe community. Local community group the JSG (Jungle Steering Group) – led by coordinator Shaun Tautali - were the brains behind the opening event, galvanising the local community to open the court in style.
Says Paris: “Spark has handed the court over to the community – it’s not Spark’s court, it’s theirs, and it is incredible to see how the JSG and the Auckland Council got behind this and created what was an amazing event for people in the Otara-Papatoetoe region. I’d like to thank them on behalf of Spark for their vision, and for their dedication to bringing this space to life.”
Local Board Chair Fa'anānā Efeso Collins says the project is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when business, council and members of the community work together for real outcomes. “Spark’s investment has really inspired a future vision for the community that extends far beyond this court. The JSG now has future plans to use the court to strengthen community bonds and provide disengaged youth with mentors, encouragement and something awesome to look forward to. This is exactly the type of community partnership our board supports and we’re proud to have helped bring this together,” says Mr Collins.
A new court for South Auckland
The Jungle is official NBA size (50’ x 90’) and has been laid with a superior grip texture so that ballers can play when it’s wet or raining. The hoops are hang proof, there’s Spark WiFi and LED screen backboards with instant replay functionality. Ballers can press a button then watch the move they just did as it’s played back to them above the hoop.
Local community taking ownership
When plans for the new court were announced earlier in the year, local Otara streetballers formed a group to get behind the project and help steer engagement from the community. The JSG have worked over the past few months to plan for the opening event and get the community involved.
For the JSG, the opening of the new court is a significant event. Many of them have been playing streetball at Otamariki Park for years, and they have strong associations with the Otara Park Ballers – a group of streetball players who used Otamariki Park as their home court in the 1990s.
Tautali says, “Today is as much a celebration of the court’s history and place in our community, as it is a celebration of what’s possible with the new court going forward. We hope that the new court will provide a much needed place for young people and families to come and play basketball. Its free, open every day, and situated close to the town centre.”
Tautali believes that the court’s technology will appeal to youth: “Local schools will have the opportunity to play on an amazing facility that features the latest technology, something that young people will find easy to use as most are already tech savvy. Who would have thought you could record yourself making an amazing cross over move on your mate then play it back for everyone to see! Brilliant!”
One of the JSG’s objectives has been to advocate for community involvement during transition of the park from Spark to the community. They have plans to run community programmes on the court, and are looking to make contacts with community groups operating programmes out of Rucker Park in New York City – sister court to The Jungle.
Paris says this kind of engagement and ownership from the local community is exactly what Spark hoped would happen with The Boroughs project. “We can build The Jungle court and deck it out with great tech, but what matters at the end of the day is what the community does with it. In this case the community has embraced their court, as we can see with the amazing event on Saturday. It wasn’t just about opening a court – it was about celebrating the people of Otara-Papatoetoe and how this court will help unleash their potential.”

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