Saidel: Bocce Court Overpriced Controller Thinks 677g Price Tag Is 'Way Too Much'

Posted: July 06, 2000

The price of the renovation and improvement of a bocce court in South Philadelphia: $677,000.

The look on City Controller Jonathan Saidel's face upon hearing the latest information: priceless.

"I hope to God the numbers you just gave me are wrong," said Saidel when told about the renovations taking place at a public bocce court on Oregon Avenue near Broad Street.

For years, the mostly elderly, mostly Italian men that played one of the European versions of lawn bowling complained about the uneven, undulating surface of the lone bocce court on the northern end of Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia.

"The court was no good, it was like this," said Mimo Rossini, 80, as his hand made up-and-down movements not unlike a swimming fish.

Finally, several bocce devotees approached then-Councilwoman Anna Verna. Renovation and repair of the court wouldn't be a problem, Verna reportedly told the bocce players.

Verna did not return numerous calls from the Daily News to her office.

Early last year, bids were accepted to not only renovate the bocce court, but to enclose the court on four sides with garage-type doors that could be opened in good weather.

In addition, a meeting room, two handicapped-accessible bathrooms and a small kitchen are to be installed in the same structure that will house the bocce court. The facility will also have heating and air-conditioning.

The renovation work began in May, and will be completed by January. The cost, $677,040, elicited strong reactions.

"It seems like one hell of a lot of money to spend on just one bocce court," said David Brewer, president of BocceBrew, a Northern California firm that specializes in the custom installation of bocce courts.

Brewer said the most he has ever charged for building a bocce court was $50,000, installed in a Napa Valley home with a slate patio and lights for night play.

One political insider whistled upon hearing the cost of the renovation.

"There must be some incredibly unusual circumstances to cause such a high price tag," said a highly placed government source who requested anonymity.

Not really, according to the engineer in charge of the project.

"This is probably mid-range in the types of projects that we do," said Charles Mondershead, design and construction project manager for Fairmount Park.

"The projects vary from $20,000 to five, six or seven million dollars for something like the renovation of the Waterworks," in Fairmount Park near the Art Museum.

"The general contracting alone cost $459,000," said Tom Klein, head of capital projects for Fairmount Park. "It works out to be about $190 per square foot, and that's pretty competitive."

But to Saidel, the price tag is a bit too steep.

"I've played bocce, it's a good game" Saidel said. "But that's way too much money for a bocce court."

Send e-mail to angelem@phillynews.com

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