HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A landmark playground in Luzerne County is getting a new lease on life after it had fallen into disrepair for years and became a haven for crime.
The Altmiller Playground was considered the place to be in the city for generations. It was a hangout for students who attended former Hazleton High School, often called the Castle, which is one block away. But in recent years, Altmiller gained a reputation of being a dangerous place.
Jerry and Louis play a game of one-on-one at Altmiller Playground in Hazleton Friday afternoon. They’re taking advantage of a hot summer day on the city’s newest and recently renovated basketball court.
“Compared to what it used to be, it was a big upgrade,” Jerry said.
“It’s nice because we were looking for a place to hangout and we don’t want to be on the streets doing whatever we want to have fun with our friends and this is a nice place to come and play. I’m glad they fixed it up,” Louis said.
Altmiller Playground, known for its landmark large boulders in the middle of the park, had been a no-fly zone for many people. Drug-dealing was a big problem.
“It was a playground that had been rundown. Two basketball courts and three tennis courts actually had trees growing in the middle,” Hazleton mayor Jeff Cusat said.
So the city refocused its attention on the playground.
“It was totally redone with over $500,000 worth of grants. No taxpayer money was utilized,” Cusat said.
Police patrols were stepped up here to deter drug dealing as well as vandalism.
“It’s really nice to see a project that we worked on so hard on utilized in a positive way,” Cusat said.
Eyewitness News reporter Andy Mehalshick could not resist the urge to shoot a few hoops with these guys. The last time he played ball here was in the mid-1970s.
So the new and improved Altmiller Playground you might say, is bridging the generations.
“People can come here and just sit like you in the old days with your boys. The place to be now,” Jerry said.
By the way, the former Hazleton High School, known as the Castle, is now used as a middle school and as we did in the day, students from that school use Altmiller Playground for school activities.
The city of Hazleton is in the process of renovating its 12 playgrounds. State or federal grants are used to pay for those renovations.