Dirt Bowl returns to its roots this summer, but park needs renovations

As Dirt Bowl returns to Algonquin Park, need for renovation gets attention

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Dirt Bowl is a Louisville tradition about to celebrate 50 years.

The annual basketball tournament brings together the Louisville community for games at Shawnee Park, attracting families and big basketball talent.

This year, the opening game and dunk contest will happen at Algonquin Park, where the event started all those decades ago. But the park is in need of some serious work.

Janis Miller helped start the Dirt Bowl and is still working to keep its legacy alive. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Janis Miller helped start the Dirt Bowl and is still working to keep its legacy alive. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

People who grew up playing at Algonquin Park said they want the kids growing up now to have the same positive experience.

“Back in the day, Algonquin Park was a park that had everything,” Dirt Bowl founder Janis Miller said.

DJ Brown, who grew up in Algonquin and plays on the local team, explained: "Swimming pools were open, high dives, two to three courts.”

Miller and Brown said bringing the games back to Algonquin will help bring back the vibrancy it once had.

”In this community, it was a safe haven,” Miller said. “Even though during those times it was tumultuous because of race relations.”


Over the past decades, Miller said the grounds at the original home of the Dirt Bowl have changed.

“It’s very disheartening to know the park hasn’t been paid much attention to,” Miller said.

Brown said as a kid he didn’t grow up with the cracks and grass growing on the courts and trash on the ground.

“Do they care about Algonquin?” Brown said. “Do they care about Algonquin Park?”

Brown said he wants his neighborhood to get the same treatment as others. However, Margaret Brosko, with Metro Parks and Recreation, said the city hasn’t forgotten about Algonquin.

“Yes, we’re in a tough time with the budget financially,” Brosko said. “But the investment that’s been taking place in the parks over the years have been great.”

There’s no set date or time for when the updates or fixes will come. However, Brown and Miller said changes will come because the park reflects Algonquin history -- a history rooted in the community and 50 years of the Dirt Bowl.

”A park is everything in the community,” Brown said. “It’s somewhere to have an outlet, a place for kids to grow and have natural play."

Miller added: "We’re going to bring that luster back so this community feels good about being the birth place of the Dirt Bowl.”

She is working on putting up a landmark at Algonquin Park making it the founding site of the Dirt Bowl.

Algonquin’s district office said fixing the park and pool is a passion and goal for the office, but at the moment not financially possible.

The following is a schedule of events for the 50th anniversary of the Dirt Bowl:

  • Sunday, June 16, 3:30 p.m., Algonquin Park: Kickoff celebration, including announcement of an historical marker (to come), as well as slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests, and a game between last year’s Dirt Bowl winner, Business as Usual, and an opponent TBD.
  • Saturday/Sunday, June 22-23, Shawnee Park: Tip-off for the 2019 season games.
  • Tuesday, June 25, 6 p.m., Frazier History Museum: Dirt Bowl history panel.
  • June/July, Shawnee Park: Games every Saturday and Sunday except the weekend of July 27-28, when West Louisville Appreciation Day is held.
  • Aug. 3-4, Shawnee Park: Dirt Bowl tournament begins.
  • Aug. 11-12, Shawnee Park: Championship games and crowning of championship teams.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 6 p.m., Frazier History Museum: 50th anniversary awards dinner.

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