Feature photo: Gracie Raim, Michael BarnettSantino Manning and Charles Manning stand on the newly-painted basketball court at Dentoni Park (Photo by contributor Robin Jones)

STOCKTON — The ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new equipment and colorfully-painted basketball court at Dentoni Park featured the usual array of county and city officials and political candidates.

But the honored guests were the youngsters who showed up with a few basketball and high hopes.

Dentoni Park, located on Davis Road in North Stockton, is the latest playground in the city to receive a makeover thanks to statefunding which was championed by Assembly member Carlos Villapudua and City Council member Sol Jobrak, who represents the district which includes the park. Villapudua secured $250,000 to update playground equipment and surfaces, as well as funding for future park enhancements to the restrooms and softball field.

Stockton City Council member Sol Jobrak and cuts the ribbon at Dentoni Park along with Xochitl Paderes, district coordinator for Assembly member Carlos Villapudua. Pictured (left to right): Assembly member Kimberly Warmsley, Mayor Kevin Lincoln, Paderes, Jobrak, Director of Public Works Jodi Almassy and City Manager Harry Black. (ROBLYN JONES CONTRIBUTOR)

Jobrak was at the ceremony on 14, and watched as youngster shot hoops on the mural-clad basketball court. He said he remembered taking his children to the park and there were deep cracks in the court which made it almost unplayable.

Now the court is smooth and covered with the work of nationally acclaimed artist Jason Tetlak, created and painted the basketball court mural. Tetlak, who is known for his murals and artwork in Denver, Texas, Las Vegas, Miami, Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Jacksonville Fla.

“This is why we did this. You see kids playing ns smiling on the playground, and I can tell you it wasn’t like that six months ago,” Jobrak said. “If I could share photos of what this place looked like before, you would see a big difference. It’s been a priority during my four years on the council, and it’s nice to see these spaces utilized the way they are now.”

A youngster speaks with Stockton City Council member Kimberly Warmsley and City Manager Harry Black in front of the renovated playgrounds at Dentoni Park (ROBYN JONES/CONTRIBUTOR)

The playground was constructed in the existing play areas at Dentoni Park and features wings, slides, a half dozen climbers, a sliding pole and much more. The equipment selection was based on research from early childhood development experts to determine how children play and interact with their caregivers. The designs use 23 elements of sensory, motor skills, cognitive skills and social/emotional skills and is designed for children ages 2-12.

Jodi Almassy, Stockton’s Director of Public Works, said the resdorations at Dentoni is part of a citywide program to improve Stockton’s parks. So far, 33 parks have been included and there’s plans for more work, according to Almassy.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been able to invest in our parks in the heart of our communities,” Almassy said. “We looked at where the need was most prevalent. We have four more in the cue and we’re excited. We haven’t been able to do that in decades.”

Among the dignitaries at the Dentoni Park ceremony were Mayor Kevin Lincoln, Vice Mayor Christina Fugazi, District Attorney-elect Ron Freitas, City Manager Harry Black and city council members Jobrak, Paul Canepa, Kimberly Warmsley and Dan Wright.

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