Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/25/11
HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. -- On what started as a damp, cloudy, cool day in Highland Park, the sun suddenly emerged from the clouds. It was a perfect metaphor and greeting for the newly renovated outdoor basketball courts at Highland Park Community High School. Thanks to a partnership between the Detroit Pistons and Coca-Cola's Sprite Spark Parks project, a space that was decaying and nearly unplayable is now like new. Highland Park Community High School was one of seven schools in the country to receive a Sprite Spark Parks grant to improve a community play space. The basketball courts received a new blacktop, fresh paint, new backboards, rims and nets. "This is absolutely amazing," said Percy Wells, Coca-Cola vice president of public affairs. "I mean, to see the transformation from what it was to what we have today, to see the excitement on the kids, to be able to give them an active play space for them to do what they do, it's exciting, it really is." On Tuesday afternoon, students and community leaders participated in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school. Because of the current NBA lockout, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank has not been able to work with his own players. But he had a chance to coach the boys and girls teams from Highland Park Community High on the finer points of the pick-and-roll. "They like it because they have a coach that they're taller than, they appreciate that," Frank joked. "It's great. I think days like this are really special. We have an opportunity to be a small part of being able to impact others and I think the mission statement of both the Pistons and Coke, joining in a collaborative effort to do something special for the kids here, I think is super." The kids particularly enjoyed watching the Pistons Flight Crew dunk team perform their acrobatic dunking act on the shiny new courts. Although Frank did not see the courts before the renovation, he said that what it represents is possibilities. "It's a metaphor not just for a basketball court but in life, that if you put your minds together and you do things kind of in a team-like fashion, how great things are possible," Frank said. "I think this is symbolic of that." Highland Park superintendent Edith Hightower said a project of this magnitude could never have been accomplished without outside assistance. "It's unbelievable. Words cannot express my gratitude to both the Pistons and Coca-Cola," Hightower said. "It means opportunities for the community and also the high school, where kids can have a place to play." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. In 2008, more than a third of children and adolescents were considered overweight or obese. Wells said the Sprite Spark Parks project is all about trying to change those numbers, which is also a goal of Pistons Care. "This is designed to create a healthy and active lifestyle for kids, get them off the sofa, get them more active, getting rid of the sedentary lifestyle," Wells said. Highland Park boys basketball coach David Payton said while his players are "overjoyed," it isn't just the basketball players at the school who will use the new courts. "I talked to the athletic director and some of the gym teachers and they said that since they got this court, kids just want to come out here and just have fun," Payton said. "It was just in shambles before so this is just fantastic."
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