New gathering place for UH Hilo students: Outdoor basketball court with adjacent grill and picnic tables, solar e-charging stations

A planner of the new recreational area says they had a lot of motivation to complete this and other summer projects prior to the start of fall semester, knowing that the end results are for the students.

By Susan Enright.

Two student playing basketball.
Students play at the renovated court. Courtesy photos.

Fall semester started this week at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and students are discovering a new place on campus to gather with friends to play, eat and talk story. An old basketball court, once a center of activity behind Auxiliary Services (maps), is now fully renovated and renamed Puʻuliʻi Basketball Court.

Not only has the old dilapidated court been repaved and reborn but the surrounding area has been transformed into a place for students to gather and socialize complete with an outdoor grill and covered picnic tables with solar charging stations for laptops, tablets and phones.

Tim Moore
Tim Moore

“The old court was created in 1999 at the Mini Observatory lot also known as Telescope Hill,” writes Tim Moore, executive director for campus recreation, in the proposal for the project. “It was heavily used by students and a hotspot on campus back in the day.”

Over time, the aging and abandoned mini observatory dome became dilapidated and the basketball court surface grew weathered, cracked and unplayable. Eventually, the area was used primarily as a storage and e-waste site, and shipping containers were placed around the court as memory of its bygone days faded away.

The push to create more outdoor gathering places on campus

The idea to refurbish the court and build the additional amenities was initiated by Moore, who envisioned a place where students could play pick-up basketball and socialize, which was one of the top recreational requests identified in a recent student survey. UH Hilo students currently walk over a mile off campus to play basketball at Mohouli Park.

Kalei Rapoza
Kalei Rapoza

The idea was supported by key administrators, notably Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza, who incorporated the project into an ongoing mission to better organize campus storage space.

Rapoza allocated funds to demolish and remove the observatory dome, declutter and relocate the shipping containers and trailers to an alternative site, clear large trees and shrubbery, and install outdoor Wi-Fi access and security cameras to prepare for the new court.

Marcia Sakai
Marcia Sakai

Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai and Vice Chancellor Rapoza also provided funds to outfit the basketball court area with four solar powered picnic tables with e-charging stations, a gazebo, an outdoor grill, and a water fountain to create an inviting gathering place for students.

Construction zone

Brian Hill on the court holding basketball.
Brian Hill on the newly renovated court.

Brian Hill, UH Hilo’s construction manager, coordinated the resurfacing and restriping of the basketball court, installation of the perimeter fence and gate, and installation of new basketball hoops and equipment.

Much of the construction was done by Hawaiʻi Community College carpentry students as part of their hands-on training program under the direction of instructor Gene Harada.

UH Hilo’s plumber, Eric Rodrigues installed a new water fountain, and IT specialists Moku Baptise and Shannon Asejo installed the security cameras, outdoor WiFi access point, and the picnic table solar infrastructure.

UH Hilo’s building and grounds maintenance crew cut back the large trees and shrubbery, and transported and installed the picnic tables.

Cut trees reveal a view of the mountain.
Clearing of the trees by Auxiliary Services maintenance crew opened up a view of Maunakea from the rec area. This photo was taken before upgrades were done.

In a written description of the project, Brenda Hamane, director of UH Hilo special projects, explains it could not have been accomplished without the “above and beyond support and tireless efforts” of the entire work crew, led by William Walters, director of UH Hilo Auxiliary Services, and Calvin Fukuhara, building maintenance supervisor.

“This major effort was one of several time sensitive projects occurring during the summer for Hawaiʻi CC’s carpentry program, UH Hilo’s Auxiliary Services, Computing Center, and Facilities Planning and Construction,” explains Hamane. “However, the summer project team’s motivation to complete this and other summer projects prior to the start of fall semester was high knowing that the end result was for the students.”

Puʻuliʻi Basketball Court

The new outdoor basketball court has been renamed Puʻuliʻi, which means “little hill.” Hamane says with the clearing of trees, the area now has a beautiful view of Maunakea.

“Students can enjoy the view while playing a pick-up basketball game, or just hanging out and using electronic devices at the four covered solar powered picnic tables,” she explains. “The gazebo and outdoor grill are the perfect amenities to host a variety of student social and recreational activities.”

Three students shooting hoops.
Student staff from the First Year Experience program have some fun on the new court. In the background (left) students enjoy refreshments at the new covered picnic tables. Each table has a solar powered e-charger for laptops, tablets and phones. Nearby is a new outdoor cooking grill and water fountain.

Related: More solar e-charging stations were also built at other locations around campus.

Aug. 23, 2018: This post has been edited to correct the new name of the court; it is Puʻuliʻi, not Puʻu Liʻi. Aug. 27, 2018: The post was edited to correct the spelling of Mohouli Park.

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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