Dirt Bowl officials unveil remodeled Shawnee basketball courts, address safety concerns

The basketball courts in Shawnee Park have been refurbished in advance of this year’s Dirt Bowl. | Photo by WLKY

By Julie Dolan | WLKY News

The 48th annual Dirt Bowl kicks off June 17, and in anticipation of the iconic basketball tournament, Mayor Greg Fischer and other local officials Tuesday morning unveiled the newly remodeled basketball courts at Shawnee Park.

The upgrades include new hoops, two rubber courts, a fresh coat of paint, bleachers and a new scoreboard.

The improvements are part of MSD’s $60 million basin project, which aims to preserve the historic nature of Shawnee Park.

The Dirt Bowl will host 24 teams in its senior division and eight teams in its youth division. Tournament commissioner Neal Robertson said most of the spots are filled, but additional teams will be registered at Cole’s Place, 2928 W. Kentucky St., on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Registration is $350 for senior teams and free for youth teams. There is no age limit.

Robertson said safety and security are top of mind for this year’s tournament given record violence. He also said plans are underway to honor the family of 7-year-old Dequante Hobbs Jr., who was struck and killed by a stray bullet in May.

“The tournament will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17. We’re going release some balloons for the 7-year-old who was shot and killed. We’re going to bring their family down here and give them jerseys with the number 7 on it. It hurts me inside to see all the crime and violence going on in our city, and I don’t have the answers to what we can do,” Robertson said.

Tournament co-founder Janis Carter also addressed the violence plaguing West Louisville and offered a suggestion.

“I’d like the parks to be designated as safe zones. Our kids need to come to the park and be able to feel safe. The adults need to make sure kids feel safe this summer,” Carter said.

Robertson said there will be at least 10 LMPD officers at the park during tournament play. He said representatives of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods also will be there for additional security.

Games will be played on Saturdays and Sundays with the exception of July 4 weekend and the weekend of July 28-29. The tournament wraps up Aug. 13.

Vendors interested in participating can contact Thomas Gibson at 502-445-6448.