Celebrating Austin's First Multi-Use Bike Polo Court at Mendez Park!
For the next Bike Story Night Summer Feature, I decided to connect with the vibrant bike polo community. We discussed their newly-remodeled multi-use bike polo court at Mendez (formerly Metz) Park, freshly renamed after Rodolfo “Rudy” Mendez a pillar of the East Austin neighborhood and program specialist at the community center.
What is Bike Polo? A lot of people will simply tell you “it's like hockey on bikes”. Having visited the court on Canterbury Street a few times in the past several years, after Sunday Cruises and once during a newbie night about a year and a half ago. I've witnessed the growth of a strong and dedicated community that gathers to play at the court. It was nice to finally dive deeper into the world of bike polo and get to know this amazing community a little better. The games are typically played 2-3 times a week (Thu 7pm, Sat or Sun 11ish) unless posted otherwise. Right now due to the high temps they usually “play to time” instead of a scoring system which generally saves arguing over the scores etc. Playing more or less in 12 minute increments gives them a chance to cool down, catch their breath, have a drink and socialize in between matches. Teams are decided at random by gathering player mallets and mixing them behind one's back and then tossing an equal amount to the left and the right. Even if you’re not playing, bike polo is delightful to watch. It was really fun watching the early bird group, and seeing how excited they were to play this unique game on the new court. I was also happy to see that the Austin bike polo players were not dominated by cis males, with almost an equal amount of women who play.
I have a few friends who frequently play, and this last Sunday I had a chance to talk to some players I’d never met before. According to David aka “Daud,” “2015 was when the first correspondence started,” so it’s taken about 8 years working with the city to get the court at Mendez updated. There’s even excitement drumming up from outside of the city; the “out-of-towners are excited as well and will also hopefully be coming out to visit and have a good court to play on now.” It sounds like several folks from the East Austin Bike Polo community enjoy traveling for tournaments. They have bike polo to thank now for friends in several states. Everyone I encountered that day seemed to be buzzing with excitement to introduce the courts to new folks and share in their enthusiasm.
I asked Mo (aka Maureen) what she would say to someone new to bike polo. “We want to stoke the joy in new players,” she answered. ”It looks intimidating, but it’s fun and important to try new things. We were all beginners once upon a time, and you won’t understand until you get on the court and try to play.”
The upcoming ribbon cutting event and the fresh new court is the perfect opportunity to dive into the exciting world of bike polo. The inclusivity and warmth of this community is undeniable, and I look forward to watching all the fun events and games to come at the new Mendez multi-use court. You can learn even more about the group and stay connected on their Facebook Page.
Big thanks to Daud, Moreen, Adam, Justin, Meelowsh & Lindsay for talking with me and to all those in the community who helped make this court come to fruition.
I'll end this with what I learned was tradition to yell out to those passing by: COME PLAY POLO WITH US!!
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FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2023 AT 7 PM
Location: Mendez Park (2407 Canterbury St) near the basketball courts
Join us in commemorating Austin's first-ever multi-use bike polo court at Mendez Park, made possible through the City of Austin's Neighborhood Partnering Program and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, in collaboration with the Austin Texas Bike Polo Social Club!
We're kicking off the festivities with an exciting ribbon-cutting ceremony, featuring demos and lessons for both newcomers and seasoned players. But the fun doesn't stop there! Following the ceremony, we invite you to indulge in the magic of "Movies Under the Stars" at Mendez Neighborhood Park, as dusk sets in. Grab your lawn chairs, blankets, snacks, and even bring your furry friends (just remember, No Glass, Please!) as we enjoy a memorable evening together.
Both events are free and open to the public, as we want everyone to experience the joy and excitement of this special occasion. Let's come together, celebrate the vibrant bike polo community, and create lasting memories at Austin's newest bike polo court!
Mark your calendars, spread the word, and get ready to immerse yourself in the thrill of bike polo, community spirit, and an evening under the stars. See you there!