The warm weather seems here to stay, and we’re itching to cure one serious case of spring fever. A winter in the gym gets the heart pumping and all, but there’s nothing like getting out there, letting loose and playing some good-old, adrenaline-filled, sweat-flying-off-your-brow sports. Luckily, Brooklyn’s pretty well set-up for this sort of thing, with great parks and spaces, and plenty of amateur leagues to bring everyone together. So whether you’re one for some pick-up hoops, or if organized cricket’s more your cup of tea, here’s how to get out and play.
First off, find a park near you. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has a website that lists all the borough’s parks, including the tiniest patches of grass for a toss and even schoolyards. Or if you already know what’s near you, but you want to find a specific game, there’s this useful site where you can search the parks by sport.
Of course, a few of the borough’s biggies have more than their share of courts, fields and other sports amenities. Here’s where you can meet many of your outdoor needs:
The park’s main road is a 3.35-mile loop that’s closed to cars, except during rush hours. There are countless inner roads and dirt paths where runners can up their mileage, but Bicycling is allowed only on the main road.
Tennis: The outdoor season at the Prospect Park Tennis Center begins May 15, and the 11 courts (nine clay, 2 har-tru) are open from 7 am to 11 pm. You’ll need a permit, though, which is $7 for an hour on the court, or $100 for the entire season.
Baseball: Prospect Park has a dozen real ball fields, which are often used for official little league games. The fields are available to everyone, but the permit process is lengthy, and the price varies. If you’re just heading out with a group of friends for some laid-back whiffleball, best to find yourselves a nice piece of grass.
Paddleboats: Starting during weekends in May, you can rent paddleboats to use on the Prospect Park Lake. Rental is $15 per hour at the Kate Wollman Rink. Boats are available from noon to 5, and in July and August, until 6 pm. For more information, call 718-282-7789.
Fishing: For $5, you can buy a one-day fishing license to catch and release the fish of the Prospect Park Lake. One park fisherman showed us a photo of his five-pound Largemouth Bass. You can’t buy the license at the park, but it’s available at a number of sports stores. The closest license issuing agent to Prospect Park is Triangle Sports, Inc., 182 Flatbush Ave., 718-638-5300. For the avid angler, an annual fishing license is $29.
Like Prospect, McCarren has permit-accessible spaces for tennis (seven courts) and baseball (five fields), as well as a couple of basketball courts. There’s also a multi-use field for football and soccer, surrounded by a quarter-mile rubber track. But the park’s highlights are the two court-sports you can play there without a permit: bocce and handball.
Bocce: McCarren’s Bocce court is first-come, first-served, and their site says to come early, as the Italian sport is becoming ever more popular.
Handball: The park has 12 handball courts at Union Ave. between Driggs and Bayard.
McCarren Park is also home to Brooklyn Kickball, whose season-opening game is May 2 at 5 pm.
Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk
Coney Island isn’t just a place to ride the Cyclone and wade into the surf. The area also has basketball courts, handball courts and bike routes to help burn off the Nathan’s fare.
Basketball: There are two courts located near the Coney Island beaches. The courts are open and free, so be prepared to wait or insert yourself into an ongoing game.
Handball: The Poseidon Playground, at 27th St. and the boardwalk, has six handball courts and some serious competition.
Beaches: Memorial Day marks the opening of the beaches of New York City. Remember the rules: the beach closes at 6 pm, and the Parks Department is vigilant in keeping swimmers out of the water when there are no lifeguards on duty.
Meet-ups and other groups
Aside from the parks themselves, there are a whole bunch of organized and semi-organized games and leagues going on around the borough. MeetUp.com is a great way to find a like-minded group of games-people. Here are a few of the sports meet-ups:
Brooklyn Pickup Soccer Meet-Up Group: A year-round, co-ed soccer game at the Prospect Park Parade Ground, Sundays at 2 pm.
Brooklyn Co-Ed NYC Softball Meet-Up Group: They’re a laid-back bunch that meets Saturdays in McCarren Park.
New York City Cricket Meet-Up Group: The NY Premier League uses the Meet-Up Group site to communicate with members. If you’re interested, act quickly, as teams are being put together for the season.
Brooklyn Squash Meet-Up Group: The group meets at different times and locations, and it’s had quite a few new members join in recent weeks. But they’re still seeking players of all skill-levels.
Prospect Park Cycling Meet-Up Group: The Prospect Park bicyclists meet Saturday mornings at 9:30. If you’re a serious speed racer, this isn’t for you. The group’s for those “interested in getting in shape, maintaining shape, and having a good time while biking with others.”
There are just a few of Brooklyn’s sporty meet-ups. Search by location—Prospect Park, for example—and you’ll find plenty more. Also, Google is a fantastic resource for finding groups. Search for your interest through Google groups, and you’ll find any number of sports. A twice-weekly Prospect Park Ultimate Frisbee game is organized through Google (Wed., Fri., 7 – 8:15 am).
For you hard-core Ultimate players, The New York City Public Ultimate League offers pick-up games throughout Brooklyn and the rest of NYC. For a $50, you can join the weekly schedule of games. There is a wait-list for joining, but the NYCPUL offers a full refund if you’re not added to a roster.
Really, it’s easy to get out and play this spring and summer wherever you are. These are just a few of the ways available if you need that extra little push. How do you play in BK?