It’s been quite a summer in Oakland Beach. The new George Schmeider Memorial Park and its state-of-the-art basketball court have been the epicenter of a renewed sense of community, due both to the support it took to make the park a reality and the activities it has paved the way for.
“It’s changed a lot down there,” said Gary Costantino, who teamed with a host of volunteers and sponsors to spearhead the project.
Now the summer’s resurgence will reach new heights.
On Sunday, August 25, Schmeider Park will be part of a stop on the And1 Live Tour, the high-flying show that brings its famous brand of basketball to courts and gyms across the country and the world. The tour stop will include a free clinic for kids, a substance abuse awareness program, a three-point challenge and a dunk contest. The And1 team will then head to Pilgrim High School for the main event, a game against a team of Rhode Island All-Stars at 7 p.m. The game was originally scheduled to be played in Providence but has been moved to Pilgrim, as of Monday, August 19.
It’ll be a day like none Warwick has ever seen.
“I don’t think people realize how athletic and talented they are,” Costantino said. “The show they put on is incredible. Most people have never seen anything like it. It’s going to be awesome.”
The event came together in a whirlwind. Last month, the finishing touches were put on the basketball court, and the schedule has been jammed with summer leagues and youth leagues ever since. Costantino was doing research a few weeks ago to get more ideas for outdoor park events when he stumbled on a YouTube video of an And1 tour stop.
Like most basketball fans, he was familiar with the name. And1 started in 1993 as an athletic shoe and apparel company, specializing in basketball. Five years later, the company received a “mix-tape” of future NBA player Rafer Alston showing off his jaw-dropping street ball moves. The company then teamed with NBA players to market a similar tape that spread like wildfire. A year later, the Mix-tape Tour was born, and it was so successful that ESPN jumped on board in 2002.
While the tour doesn’t appear on television sets as much these days, it’s still going strong. A new cast of players hit spots all over the country, delighting crowds with acrobatic dunks and eye-popping ball-handling. The players have been called the next generation Harlem Globetrotters.
When Costantino saw the video, he went to And1’s web site and saw that a summer tour was in progress.
“I figured why not?” Costantino said. “I emailed them and told them the story of the park.”
Two hours later, an And1 manager called Costantino. She was impressed with the story of Schmeider, the foundation and the park, and she offered to squeeze a Rhode Island stop into the tour.
“She was blown away by how fast everything came together and what the community did,” Costantino said. “She said they had an open date in August. We basically said, ‘We’ve already gone this far. Let’s make it happen.’”
Money was a potential hurdle – venues pay to bring in the And1 tour – but Costantino and the other leaders of the foundation felt it would be worth it. With the help of sponsors like the Elanna Zuller Sports Foundation, Allstate Insurance, the Elks Lodge and Gary Perry Paving, the tour stop was booked quickly. The City of Warwick is on board to help, but it won’t have to contribute any funds. The foundation continues to accept donations on its web site at georgeschmeider.com.
Costantino thinks the And1 event is something Schmeider – a Warwick teacher and coach who passed away last year – would have loved to see in his hometown.
“This summer has been so great,” Costantino said. “It’s very family-oriented with the playground and the park, we’ve got the summer league going. We thought this would be a great way to end the summer.”
Initially, organizers hoped to hold the game at Schmeider Park, in addition to the pre-game festivities. But with huge crowds expected, it was moved to Pilgrim High School.
The clinic is set for 9 a.m. at Schmeider Park. It’s for kids ages 6 to 15 and is free. Anyone interested in attending must contact Costantino at (401) 391-9008 to sign up.
Following the clinic, the players will sign autographs and team up with Warwick Police for a discussion on substance abuse awareness, beginning at 12 p.m. The players will be back on the court at 1 p.m. for a three-point challenge and a dunk contest.
For the nightcap at Pilgrim, tickets are $10 each and children under 6 get in free. Tickets can be purchased at the door and will also be available at georgeschmeider.com beginning Friday.
Costantino and his connections in the Rhode Island basketball world are working on assembling a star-studded team to go against the And1 squad. Former Providence College star God Shammgod and other former college players from the area are being recruited.
Whoever suits up will be part of a quite a spectacle – and a fitting exclamation point on a special summer.
“It’s going to be surreal,” Costantino said. “To have everybody come together and build the park so quickly and now to have And 1 getting involved with our foundation and the community – it’s pretty big. It’s an honor to have them here.”