Dirt Bowl Basketball Tournament Returns to West Louisville

Joined by community leaders, lawmakers and local athletes, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the return of The Dirt Bowl basketball tournament to Shawnee Park this summer.

The competition has been a West End tradition for over four decades, but has been on hiatus due to a lack of funding and sponsorship. Organizers were able to briefly revive the Dirt Bowl in 2009 and city leaders have been working to resurrect the tournament permanently.

“It was a significant loss for Louisville and a specific loss for western Louisville,” says Fischer said. “Generations of families came here to sit on bleachers, to share good times and to watch some serious hoops.”

The Dirt Bowl was created by community activist Ben Watkins in 1969 as a way to bring basketball and family-style picnics together. Over the decades, the tournament has hosted local and national basketball stars such as Jim McDaniels, Dan Issel, Wes Unseld, Darryl Griffith and Derek Anderson.

City leaders also stressed that police, sheriffs and community ambassadors will be in attendance to make sure the park is safe for all residents. Over the weekend, residents praised the return of the annual Summer Fest for its lack of altercations and many hope the Dirt Bowl will be the same.

Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, says bringing the tournament back is an important step for the Shawnee neighborhood, and that it also is an attempt to detour violence over the summer.

“Anytime you get a large group of people together all kinds of things could come up. There could be feuds that have been going on and we just don't want any negativity to come into the park. I've asked people not to bring dogs, drugs or dice. We don't want any gambling or any weapons. If you've got a feud with someone just stay home,” she says.

Hamilton's office contributed approximately $3,000, but the tournament is still seeking sponsors.

The 42nd annual Dirt Bowl will be held June 30 through August 12, the date of the championship game. Organizers are still accepting application fees. For more information, contact community organizer Neal Robertson at (502) 664-0780.

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