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Where do NL kids go now with no more Martin Center?

Older generations can't process the whims of kids today, who despite heretofore unfathomable technological enrichment, still manage to tell us they're "bored."

Hmmm. Maybe we can all identify with them a little better now here in this new abnormal? I mean, who's not bored? We can all partake of technology for hours and days at a time now ... yet we're all felt varying levels of disdain for the mundane.

Is it possible that perhaps it took a pandemic for the adult community to absorb the cries of the kids? Loosely translated: Technology aside, we all need someplace to be doing fun things around our friends.

This is of particular relevance in New London, where the city recently approved the sale of the Martin Center, a home to basketball courts as well as recreational leagues and programs. It prompts the question: So where do the kids go now?

Full disclosure: The Martin Center is iconic, but probably hasn't been a true destination for the kids in New London for years. But its newfound use — not for the kids anymore — bears both symbolic and rhetorical usefulness. It's another example of kicking the kids, along with the can, down the road.

Oh, we give kids plenty of lip service. A whole lot of harrumphing that amounts to hypocrisy, duplicity and insincerity wrapped in leadership's thunderous proclamations with few results.

Example: I read where some of our city leaders, in the wake of the Martin Center's sale, would "form a new coalition to strategize a path forward" for a new community center.

Form a new coalition to strategize a path forward.

It's the most New London thing ever: Adults who are well-meaning enough gather to make themselves feel better — "we're doing something!!" — bark out ideas with neither the money nor any other wherewithal to make them happen.

Rinse.

Repeat.

I'm more from the Mike Buscetto School Of Making Things Happen. Many of you know Mike as the owner of Filomena's in Waterford. He is always helping people. It's just that he 1) doesn't tolerate fools; 2) has no patience for red tape; and 3) gets things done yesterday because of it.

I'm not suggesting Mike spearhead a new community center idea (although I would pay to see him run a few of those meetings). But I am suggesting we adopt a more Buscetto-like approach. Find every business leader around here and say: You're in or you're out. Pick one.

I get that money's getting tighter in a pandemic. But we need business leaders from the region — the people who have money and know their way around it — to lead this. Not politicians. I'd bet on teamwork among successful business people who want to give the kids a place to gather before "a new coalition to strategize a path forward."

I guess it's here: If people in and out of New London want this to happen — if the kids are important enough — we will find ways. If not, it's business as usual.

If this pandemic has taught us nothing else, it should be teaching us this: People out there need our help. It begins with our kids.

A new community center requires land for a building, the building itself, an accessible location, money, staffing once it's built and a thousand other things. Not easy. But then, we are all experiencing the necessity of community now. Community: a place to gather with our friends. The kids deserve a place to do so. As do we all.

At some point, the priority needs to shift to our kids, especially in New London. I've encountered scores and scores of kids from the city who have been conditioned to think they're entitled to less because they've always had less. It's heartbreaking.

Other cities in Connecticut have community centers that are home, for example, to midnight basketball leagues. It's amazing the number of people of varying colors and cultures midnight basketball leagues can unite. It's just one illustration.

I like the sound of the public address announcer saying, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Pfizer Basketball Courts at the Electric Boat Community Center."

Idealistic? Perhaps. But it sure beats a new coalition to strategize a path forward. The people with means are invited to help. The kids need to hear something beyond lip service. For once.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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