Natelli Communities, a real estate investment and development company based in Gaithersburg, Md., has granted the Town of Ocean View $50,000 to build two bocce courts at John West Park in Ocean View, for use by Special Olympics teams, as well as the public.
Work will begin later this year, and the courts will be handicapped-accessible.
Courts will be located in the park near the rear of the Ocean View Historical Society buildings. There will be no cost to play, and equipment will be provided.
The Town has $15,000 in the 2022-fiscal-year budget — an amount Town Manager Carol Houck referred to as “seed money” to get the project started. Natelli Communities, developer of the Bay Forest housing community in Bethany Beach, was originally contacted by the Town to “ask for pointers on constructing the courts to serve as the Sussex County Special Olympics Delaware home courts,” Houck said, but the owners offered to build the courts.
The Sussex Riptide and Special Olympics Delaware teams have had a long relationship with the Ocean View Police Department, she said, adding that Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin has allowed players to practice bocce ball in the hallway at the Ocean View Municipal Complex because there was no court nearby. McLaughlin’s involvement sparked Houck’s interest in providing courts at the park — a suggestion the town council liked and approved for the current budget, in the Emerging Projects category.
“We’re excited about this opportunity,” Houck said, adding that Mayor John Reddington had “praised Natelli Communities’ interest in impacting this project to such an extent and thanked the company for its generosity on behalf of the entire Ocean View Community.”
The project is “another step toward our town being an even more inclusive and attractive community,” she said.
Bocce ball, a game for two to eight players, is similar to lawn bowling. Bocce balls are spherical and traditionally made of wood but can also be constructed of metal, baked clay or plastic.
“It is our plan to provide opportunities for youth and adult lessons, and off-season tournament play between local developments or groups. In addition to being a practice location, we hope to offer competitive matches between the Special Olympics Delaware athletes in our park — something we could never do before. This is another amenity for the residents of Ocean View,” Houck said.
Ocean View police have also helped with Special Olympics programs including swimming, bowling and basketball, as well as providing space for holiday parties.
“Whenever we have been made aware of a need of the athletes and organization, we tried our best to try and accommodate them,” McLaughlin stated.
Tom Natelli Jr. and his father, Tom Natelli Sr., chief executive officer of the company, said they wanted to help the Town after learning about the police department’s involvement with Special Olympics Delaware, Houck said.
“This project has the potential to impact a large part of the community here in Ocean View, as well as athletes that participate from the Eastern Shore of Maryland — that, plus the fact that the Town’s enthusiasm was contagious, to improve the experience for the Sussex Riptides,” Natelli Jr. stated of the reasons behind the offer.