Sports playing major role in Pontchartrain Park comeback

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 20, 2011 at 6:18 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 20 at 6:24 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- The city-owned Joe Bartholomew golf course, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, is now rebuilt and ready to go.

The NBA Hornets recently put in a new basketball court, and Major League Baseball just signed on to rebuild the old Wesley Barrow stadium, complete with three baseball fields and new batting cages.

The 200 acres of sports and recreational space that first attracted families to Pontchartrain Park in New Orleans 50 years ago are now luring them back six years after the storm.

"Major League Baseball, the NBA and the city with this wonderful, historic golf course, you're talking about a concise template for what can happen throughout this city," said actor and Pontchartrain Park native Wendell Pierce.

Pierce founded a non-profit corporation to help rebuild the neighborhood.

The "Treme" star said families see the green space coming back and they are getting ready to return as well.

"We have almost 700 families already in our pipeline," said Pierce. "We have 200 pre-qualified families ready to come back. We have 50-plus contracts already signed."

Monday, Pierce met New Orleans Councilman Arnie Fielkow outside Barrow Stadium.

Fielkow helped convince Major League Baseball to spend more than $5 million to renovate the stadium and to locate a year-round academy for young people at the site.

"We think this is going to be a catalyst for sports in general, for not only the Gentilly community, but the entire city of New Orleans is going to want to play on the one of the nicest facilities, maybe the nicest that exists in the city," said Fielkow.

Fielkow called the project "transformational."

"The quality of life is going to be enhanced so significantly," said Fielkow. "I think this is going to be one of those big catalysts that you look down the road and say this is why this area recovered."

Community leaders say the golf course, Major League baseball complex and other recreational assets all coming back at the same time will accelerate the pace of both residential and commercial redevelopment in the Pontchartrain Park, Gentilly area.

"We are on the verge," said Pierce. "We are on the verge of really just having this neighborhood explode and come back."

Gretchen Bradford, president of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association, said the new sports developments give residents hope.

"This is the best time, the greatest time to return back to Pontchartrain Park and also the city of New Orleans," said Bradford.

The Joe Bartholomew golf course is expected to reopen this summer.

The city is now seeking bids from companies interested in operating and maintaining the course.

The city is also expected to rebuild the Pontchartrain Park tennis courts.

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