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Bocce at last: New court opens at La Jolla Recreation Center

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, left,and Vito Formica, right.
San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava (left) throws out the first bocce ball to officially open the new bocce court at the La Jolla Recreation Center after receiving some tips from experienced bocce player Vito Formica.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

With fanfare and a lot of fans, a new and long-awaited bocce court is now open on the grounds of the La Jolla Recreation Center.

The grand opening of the temporary court, which had been in the works since 2017, was held June 30 and attended by members of the La Jolla Community Recreation Group, Rec Center employees and other community leaders and members.

The regulation-size bocce court is along the Draper Avenue side of the Rec Center grounds. Related equipment such as a scoreboard and a broom and rake to maintain the court will be kept inside the Rec Center for players to check out.

If the temporary court proves popular, a permanent one will be added to plans to renovate the Recreation Center.

"Let's all learn how to play bocce!" Mary Coakley Munk said at the grand opening of the Recreation Center bocce court.
“Let’s all learn how to play bocce!” La Jolla Community Recreation Group Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk said at the grand opening of the Recreation Center bocce court.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The cost of the bocce court, which CRG Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk said in May was estimated at $23,000, was funded by the nonprofit Friends of the La Jolla Recreation Center. La Jolla philanthropy group Las Patronas donated a bocce ball set.

Speaking at the grand opening, San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, thanked Coakley Munk for making the idea to install a bocce court a reality, “with patience and persistence.”

He also thanked San Diego Parks & Recreation Department employees for their assistance with the permits to build the court, along with Tom Grunow and Bill Anderson of Grunow Construction, who oversaw the court’s plans and construction with Jose Perez of J.J. Perez Landscape Inc. and Robert Casias of Casias Construction.

LaCava said the court “will not only be entertaining to amateurs like you and I and our kids that are strong enough to lift 1- or 2-pound balls” but also for professionals and bocce enthusiasts who play several times per week.

La Jolla resident Vito Formica, whom Coakley Munk said was one of the first to get the bocce court plans rolling, said he plans to be on the Rec Center court three days a week and will help “anyone that wants to learn to play or get a group together and play. It’s a lot of fun.”

Councilman Joe LaCava, Maryann Barton, Umberto Falcon, Vito Formica and Dan McCandless (from left)
Councilman Joe LaCava, Maryann Barton, Umberto Falcon, Vito Formica and Dan McCandless (from left) cut the ribbon on the new bocce court at the La Jolla Rec Center.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Formica gave LaCava some tips for throwing the bocce ball at the pallino — a smaller ball tossed at the beginning of the game to serve as a target for the other balls — just before the councilman threw the first ball to officially open the court.

Formica said bocce and the new Rec Center court are made for La Jolla.

“If you can move and throw, you can [play],” he said. “[There’s] less physical athleticism in this game. It’s more for fun, unless you’re a professional.”

Umberto Falcon, a Little Italy resident who has won bocce championships and was on hand to help others learn the game, said “it’s great to see people playing” in La Jolla now.

Bocce “was an important part of me spending time with my dad,” LaCava said. “We just went to the backyard, tossed the ball around a little bit. And then my daughters joined in when they were old enough. It really holds a special place in my heart.” ◆