Is the tune running through your head as you read it? On October 27th, the Phil Mazzone Sports Complex was unveiled at A.N. Myer Secondary School in Niagara Falls. It’s a dream-come-true for Vito DiMartino, and that tune could be his theme song.
Four tennis courts are now available for the students of A.N. Myer …. the first public school in the Niagara Peninsula to have such a facility. They’re superimposed with four basketball courts in a space that was formerly empty.
When the school began preparing for its 50th anniversary in 2007, Vito – who was the school’s athletic director and head of physical education – suggested the area be transformed into a sports zone. “The goal was two-fold, to create something to improve our facility and to encourage more physical participation among students.”
He couldn’t have imagined it would take nine years. And Niagara Falls couldn’t have imagined a teacher and citizen with such remarkable resolve and perseverance.
The vision became clear, and fund-raising went well. But approvals were a long and often frustrating process. Vito and his committee persisted because of their belief in the merits of the project. “If kids are active and they choose healthy lifestyles, then society benefits from that.”
The financial crash of 2008 made the beginning difficult, but by the end of 2009 there were hopes for construction in 2010. However when Maja Vujic won the 2013 OFSAA gold medal as an A.N. Myer athlete, there were still no tennis courts at the school. Ground was finally broken in January 2015, and on November 1 2016 the first tennis ball was played on the courts. The rally was between school coach Ryan Zaleta and 15-year-old student Robert Nagy.
Over the course of those nine years, the cost of the project rose from $200,000 to $350,000 …. all of it donated. Among the donors was a very supportive group of alumni. The alumni requested that the new facility be named in honour of Phil Mazzone, a teacher at the school from 1977-1993. Phil had been instrumental in helping hundreds of student-athletes attain scholarships, and mentored countless others to strive for their highest goals.
At the unveiling ceremony in October, Phil was placed in a spotlight he had often resisted. “I am overwhelmed and honoured. I am deeply humbled, and also proud and grateful for this generous and heartfelt gesture.”
But then he was quick to turn attention to Vito DiMartino. “His strength of purpose, his determination, his perseverance and his positive and caring attitude drove him to continue and succeed.”
Both Phil Mazzone and Vito DiMartino say the sports complex is all about the students and the community. “Nationally tennis has really taken a step forward. I really see a mini-boom for tennis locally”, said Vito. Facilities are key to such growth. Vito hopes to see the Phil Mazzone Complex open to the community in the spring, with Couples Tennis the first target program.