The cooler weather complemented perfectly with two big activities taking place at Granite Park this past weekend — The Big Bounce America and a memorial softball tournament.
Both drew sizable, yet manageable crowds, with a $3 cover charge to enter the facility. Each event had its own entry fees as well.
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For the families enjoying what is called the Guinness Book of World Records largest bounce house, it was a great chance for kids to jump their energy away.
The softball players said they enjoyed having a place to come together as a community.
Nobody expressed concern about the debate at City Hall and via social media over how the park is managed.
Softball Tournament Honors Joey Rodriguez
The three fields were occupied by teams competing in a tournament to honor one of their own, Joey Rodriguez, a construction worker and softballer who died last week unexpectedly at the age of 47 from unknown causes.
“He was a good guy, he never had a problem with anybody. He got along with everybody. You can see a lot of people out here showing their support. They loved him. He touched a lot of people,” Jason Rodriguez, Joey’s brother, said.
Willie Turner, a regular, said the softball community is a close-knit group with Fresno at its core.
“The Valley is where it’s at,” Turner said, noting that teams from all over the Valley from Sacramento to Bakersfield came out to play. “You can leave your equipment out here, and no one will steal it because we are all family.”
“It’s family,” Jason agreed.
A Safe Place
“It’s family-oriented. You see kids running around. People watch your kids … you never have to worry about stuff like that.”— Willie Turner
Granite Park is the place to play for softball enthusiasts like himself, Turner said, adding that his group feels safer at Granite Park than other softball facilities.
“It’s family-oriented. You see kids running around. People watch your kids … you never have to worry about stuff like that,” Turner said.
Turner mentioned the recent homicide of a softball player in Tulare, noting it hit his community hard.
“For something like that to happen, wow!” Turner said.
Not Worried About Granite Park
Last week, Councilman Garry Bredefeld sounded the alarm about Central Valley Community Sports Foundation — the nonprofit which operates Granite Park, saying there is a stench, based on a critical city-initiated audit released in January. The park came up in the news again after CVCSF president Terance Frazier and a business partner received a $659,000 city subsidy for another unrelated project, the $20 million South Stadium mixed-use development in downtown Fresno.
Bredefeld said that CVCSF hadn’t lived up to their end of the deal, citing the absence of basketball and volleyball courts. While I didn’t see any basketball courts, volleyball nets are set up on the grass fields between the diamonds and soccer areas.
That audit has been heavily criticized by the Frazier camp. He filed a claim against the city, the first step before filing a potential lawsuit. He said the premature nature and errors of the audit caused $10 million in damages. Frazier later amended his claim to an undisclosed amount.
Turner, chatting between games, says he’s not fully aware, nor is he concerned, about the recent doubts cast upon Granite Park’s management.
“For us to speak on it, we need to know more information about what’s going on behind the scenes; we don’t. We do know this. The doors are being kept open by the best of our ability (as a softball league),” Turner said. “I’m not going to say they are right or wrong. I don’t know personally,” Turner said.
He added he knows Frazier, and “his character is amazing. I’ve had nothing but great encounters with the man.”
A Last-Minute Deal
Frazier, on Facebook, posted that booking The Big Bounce America came with one week’s notice. He wrote that Granite Park was offered the chance to host the bounce house on Aug. 30.
“We jumped headfirst at the opportunity. Knowing that our window was narrow, with five business days to get all of our ducks in a row, we had to get right to work. In the end, staff from the city of Fresno’s planning, building, fire, and city managers departments, really went out of their way to get us to where we needed to be and even came out on Saturday morning to execute the final inspections,” Frazier wrote.
He then went on to thank the city for help putting the deal together.