BRENTWOOD -- After senior bocce ball enthusiasts deemed Brentwood's public bocce courts to be poorly designed and unsafe for those with limited mobility, the city is now renovating the popular courts at Veterans Park just in time for the upcoming season.
The park project is funded through local grants from the East Bay Regional Park District's Measure WW Park Bond Extension. This money also paid for the upcoming future opening of a Universal Abilities Playground and an expansion of Brentwood's dog park.
"Our bocce group are elderly people and getting older with time. This was all through meeting with them and asking what they want," said Brentwood parks maintenance manager Roger Stromgren. "It was long overdue."
According to Stromgren, some of the improvements are for better accessibility, including the addition of handrails. The seniors in the city's bocce ball league tested out and approved a prototype this year, he noted.
With some seniors claiming that they have sustained minor injuries due to the design flaws, the city also is making the courts shallower and widening the pathways between the four courts at Veterans Park so players can have adequate space to score and monitor games near the middle courts.
"We have four courts, and the courts are only a foot apart," said Stromgren. "We are adding a fifth court and are going to fill one (existing court) in and put two shade structures in there."
Brentwood senior June Peters, a spokesperson for the bocce groups, said that the improvements are looking good and she hopes that the recent rain does not inhibit construction. The city plans to complete the project in time for the upcoming season in March.
"The court that is being filled will be a rest area with full shade and benches," Peters said.
Peters noted that the current project does not include bocce ball courts at the Apple Hill neighborhood park, which has inaccessible handrails and other needed improvements. She said that the enhancements at Veterans Park likely will eliminate late-morning games, which seniors have described as too hot in the summer months for those with medical issues.
A total of six shade structures are being installed, according to Stromgren. During past seasons, players at both sets of courts were using their own oversized umbrellas for protection from the glaring sun.
As the contractor working on the project, Richard Soracco Jr., of Soracco & Sons, said that accessibility and ADA projects are everywhere now, from parks and playgrounds to businesses. He said that the city is also adding a new fence and gates and electrical wiring for future lighting.
Soracco said he has done a lot of research about bocce ball, including the right concentration for the ground cover in the courts, which will be a combination of crushed oyster shells, flour and limestone. He said that this will ensure that the balls roll at the right speed during games.
"People who play bocce are intense," said Soracco. "It is a little bit of a science. We will work till we get it right."
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