Although bocce players were out in full force on Saturday, many say the courts are not ready for the championships in two weeks.
Steve Shakarchy, a regular at Juniper Valley Park and bocce coach with the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, said the courts are simply not ready for tournament play.
“They spent more on that top roof than all the courts and they didn’t even do a good job,” Shakarchy said, pointing to newly installed steel shade structures on either end of the three courts. “When it rains the courts never dry and it’s uneven.”
He added that bocce balls banking off the back walls and back into play goes against the game's rules and is an issue.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony in late July, Shakarchy said the Parks Department told him they investigated complaints about the uneven surface and sidewalls and responded that ”the courts are good.”
“And that’s a total lie,” Shakarchy said. “I told them they have to fix it by the 20th – that’s when the finals are. People are going to come from Brooklyn and Staten Island, and they’re going to play on a court, when they’re professionals, and they can’t even judge their own ball. It’s disgusting.”
A representative of the Parks Department said they in fact did make some repairs, including steps to the newly constructed court as well as bocce ball racks, which were left out of the original construction plan.
With or without the court controversy, turnout for this year's tournament is low.
Guy DeSantes of the United States Bocce Federation said he blames the Parks Department for a lack of advertising after noticing that the turnout at the preliminary round was low.
“They really announced it a little too late and I don’t think they’re really promoting it properly,” DeSantes said. “I know some of the boroughs have been having trouble even getting teams together this year.”
Longtime bocce player Sal Visone said that although the city did a poor job with preparing the courts for the tournament last week, he has found ways to adjust his game.
“If you don’t know the court and you come to a tournament then you’re at a disadvantage,” he said. “But if you’re playing someone one-on-one, the smarter and better player comes out ahead.”