LONGWOOD, Fla. — If you’re an outdoor hooper, as so many of us in Florida are with the beautiful weather making it possible to play all year long, you know what those vibes are like on the basketball court. It’s not just, however, about playing the game we love and enjoy, but doing so in an environment where there’s a sense of community and belonging.
Expect that to deepen at Candyland Sports Complex in Longwood, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Orlando, thanks to a collective effort from NBA Top Shot, the Orlando Magic, and Project Backboard, which works in collaboration with local partner Swishh Dreams.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, those organizations teamed up to unveil Candyland’s renovated basketball court, featuring a design tailored to the location. The artist of the project, Swishh Dreams Founder Hannah Hunter, meshed basketball with the classic board game, Candy Land.
“It just started out as a doodle,” said Hunter, a basketball enthusiast whose mission is to find and renovate neglected public outdoor basketball courts. “Then I kind of worked It until it was a nice court design. I added Netman in the middle. He’s our mascot, a magical basketball net cartoon character that saves the courts. I added the Magic and NBA Top Shot logos (also).”
Impressed by the design, and just the overall energy at the park, was Magic forward Franz Wagner, who showed up to celebrate the occasion and assist Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw in running a basketball clinic for children aged 10-12 on the court.
“It’s really cool,” said the 21-year-old, who just the prior day got back from Germany where he helped his national team win the bronze at EuroBasket 2022. “From my experience, we didn’t have anything like this back home in Germany. I’m sure the kids will have a lot of fun…It looks dope.”
Someone else blown away by the court makeover was Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan, a former pro wrestling superstar and college basketball player at Monmouth University in New Jersey and Chaminade University in Hawaii.
Elated to have the support of so many philanthropic agencies, including the Magic, he believes this is going to tighten up the community even more and give the children a safe and vibrant place to have fun with friends, make new ones, and play a variety of sports. In addition to basketball, the complex features baseball and softball fields, new pickleball courts, a futsal court (concrete soccer), a skate park, a Velosolutions pump track, which is the only one in Central Florida, and plenty more.
“As far as how big of a project this was for our community and city, it was huge,” Morgan said. “In our city, we say it starts with parks. It’s not a cliché, or a hashtag, or a tag line – we really believe that, and we’ve proven it here with this park…The thought process behind it is, we want our youth to have safe places to go and either learn a new sport, be part of a team, and so on and so forth…We are doing a lot of things with this park. That’s why we now renamed it Candyland Sports Complex – no longer Candyland Park because the theme is true, we have nothing but great sports here and we are very proud of that.”
As NBA Top Shot, the exclusive home for digital collectibles of on-court NBA highlights, grew their community online, they wanted to find ways to connect them in real life as well. Candyland Sports Complex, through their partnership with Project Backboard, Swishh Dreams, and the Magic, was the perfect spot for their first of what they envision to be many court renovations around the country.
Working side by side with NBA teams, such as the Magic, is essential for their long-term community goals.
“The team partnership is critical here,” said Meg Patten, who leads events and experiences at NBA Top Shot. “We are an official partner of the NBA and working with the Magic has been outstanding. They are a first-class, world-class organization. They’ve been integral to the success of this (court unveiling).”