By MADDY VITALE
Move over, shuffleboard — just a little. Shuffleboard courts will have to make room for new bocce ball courts at the Sports & Civic Center complex on Fifth Street and the Boardwalk.
“Over the years, we have gotten multiple requests to install bocce ball courts in town,” Michael Allegretto, aide to Mayor Jay Gillian, said in an interview Monday.
He continued, “As part of the Sports & Civic Center project, the mayor thought it would be a great opportunity to install bocce ball courts to enhance the whole recreational area.”
Funding was approved this past week for the bocce ball courts.
“The bocce ball courts are certainly moving along,” Allegretto noted. “The bond that was just passed (by City Council) includes the bocce ball installation.”
Now, city officials are researching the size regulations of the bocce ball courts and deciding if they will be square or rectangle. There will be three courts.
It has not yet been determined when they will be completed. Allegretto said the city is still in the planning phase.
Among the activities in the Sports & Civic Center complex are basketball and the shuffleboard courts. A host of fundraisers and other events are held and staged in the area. Carey Stadium is next to the complex and the two facilities complement each other.
A large area of fresh dirt next to the civic center will be the location of the new bocce ball courts. They are right next to the shuffleboard courts.
On Monday, there was a flurry of activity and some friendly competition between shuffleboard players who belong to the Ocean City Shuffleboard Club, which has been in existence since 1941.
The club players were holding a tournament, but some of them stopped for a moment to talk about needed improvements in their area and how they welcome the bocce ball courts and the players who will come along with the new city amenity.
John Herrington, of Ocean City, is president of the Ocean City Shuffleboard Club.
He explained that people have been playing shuffleboard at the club since 1941.
There are many reasons to like the sport, he said.
“I think that people like the social aspect of it,” Herrington said. “It’s an easy game to play, less stress than pickleball.”
Tom Palmer, of Ocean City, is vice president of the club.
He echoed Herrington’s sentiments, saying, “It’s a great game to play among friends.”
Both Palmer and Herrington said that they are anxious for the city to make improvements to the facility.
“The roof leaks. The windows leak,” Herrington pointed out, adding that he hopes that the improvements are made soon.
Mayor Gillian said in an earlier interview that work will be done to improve the shuffleboard facility. In addition, some of the courts are being resurfaced.
“The shuffleboard courts will be cleaned up,” Gillian said. “We want everything to look nice. We have been doing things there over the last few years. We know the building needs some work.”
Allegretto said that the shuffleboard courts have been a staple of the community.
“We think the building has been there since at least the 1930s or ’40s,” he said. “Over the years, more courts were added on because people who were playing shuffleboard in Florida were coming back to Ocean City and wanted to play. I think they were expanded in the 1950s and ’60s.”
Carol Herrington, John Herrington’s wife, and her close friend, Pat James, of Ocean City, have been playing shuffleboard together for five years.
“She is better than I am,” Herrington said with a laugh. “We have a good time.”
James noted that shuffleboard is a favorite pastime of residents and visitors.
“We really get a lot of compliments from the visitors about the courts,” she said.
Carol added, “It is one of the free things people can play and enjoy in Ocean City.”