LOWER EAST SIDE — Basketball City's enormous new home on the East River is finally close to opening after years of planning, community debate and construction.
The $12.5 million complex — which features seven basketball courts, locker rooms, event space and offices in a former storage shed on Pier 36 — is scheduled to open in March, said Bruce Radler, Basketball City's founder and president.
"It's exciting, but I don't have time to sit and relax," Radler said as he gave a tour recently, pointing out all that still has to be done.
The 14 basketball hoops are already hanging from the ceiling of the cavernous 70,000-square-foot space at Montgomery and South streets, and the water fountains at one end are operational, but workers still have to install the wood floors and put in a myriad of other finishing touches.
In addition to completing the construction, Radler is also working on fulfilling several promises he made to the community after local residents balked at the idea of a private for-profit company taking over a piece of the public waterfront.
Radler plans to launch a series of six-week basketball clinics for neighborhood children and teens, with registration costing just $25. He is also offering space to local public schools to use during the day and will set aside time for the community to use the gym at little or no cost, he said.
"I'm not turning a kid out because they don't have the funds," Radler said. "We will work with any family."
Radler said he is also working with the Henry Street Settlement to fulfill another promise he made to the community — to hire local residents as his staff.
The funding for Basketball City's community programs comes from private partnerships and the center's corporate clients, who rent the space for recreational leagues and networking events.
While Basketball City's courts and locker rooms are scheduled to open in March — "That's what we're shooting for," Radler said, with the pun intended — the complex's bar and restaurant, along with its public outdoor space along the waterfront, won't open until later in the year.
The restaurant, located on a mezzanine level overlooking the courts, will serve food like paninis and smoothies, along with burgers and beer, Radler said.
In addition to building the basketball courts and other amenities, Basketball City also had to add basic services to the former Office of Emergency Management shed, including electricity, water and gas, which is part of the reason construction has taken a year and a half, Radler said.
Radler opened the first Basketball City on Pier 63 in Chelsea in 1997, but he was forced to leave the pier in 2006 to make way for construction on Hudson River Park.
The company now has several other locations across the country but hasn't had its own gym in New York since 2006, which means Radler had to borrow space in other facilities to run the youth and corporate programs.
The news that Basketball City was moving to Pier 36 sparked community outrage several years ago, as residents of the nearby public housing buildings said the neighborhood needed an accessible gathering space, not a pricey gym.
Radler said he hopes that once people see how the center operates, they will welcome its presence.
"We've always given back to the community," he said. "We're not going to change that now."
To sign up for Basketball City's first six-week clinic for boys and girls ages 7 to 16, which will meet on Sunday afternoons starting mid-March, e-mail Community Board 3 member Tom Parker at TomParker@rcn.com. Include the student's name, age, gender and address and the parent's name and contact information. First priority will go to children living in CB3, which covers the East Village, the Lower East Side and Chinatown.