(Additional photograph below.)
Ernie DiBurro of the Haverhill High School class of 1952 may as well have been hoisted on the shoulders of his classmates during a ceremony Wednesday for his winning $1 million donation of an indoor tennis and pickleball court on the current Monument Street campus.
DiBurro, owner of Academy Lanes in Bradford and a longtime education benefactor, united Haverhill’s dueling political factions at the groundbreaking ceremony with his latest gift. DiBurro explained his rationale.
“Everything that we’ve been able to do enhance the students here at Haverhill High School has been my goal,” he told those gathered.
DiBurro’s previous gifts have included scholarships, a clubhouse at Haverhill Stadium, fitness room at the high school pool, construction of a large ornamental iron entrance to the school’s athletic fields, fencing to secure the athletic fields and lighting around the track.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini said not only are shovels breaking ground, but DiBurro’s donation is also breaking new ground in other respects. The mayor explained, “This is going to be one of the first indoor public tennis and pickleball facilities anywhere.”
Fiorentini, apparently acknowledging complaints over the city’s additional $3.2 million investment in the project, said while the new courts are not the city’s top priority, “We can’t just do one or two things. We also have to improve the life and the quality of life of our residents.”
While the building will also be available to the public, Athletic Director Thomas E. O’Brien spelled out the benefits for students.
“This building is more than just a tennis building. Yes, it’s going to benefit our tennis students. It gives them two extra courts. It allows them to play year-round. During inclement weather, we don’t have to cancel matches or practices. They can play inside. But, more than our tennis team, every student here benefits because our PE classes are going to use it as well during the day,” he said.
School Superintendent Margaret Marotta, speaking directly to students gathered at the ceremony, said she is happy for them as the indoor courts will only help to “improve your game.” She noted there are not many high schools with a swimming pool, indoor tennis and a track field. “Not many high schools can say they have the amenities we have,” she added.
Haverhill City Council President Timothy J. Jordan also praised DiBurro’s donation. “To have these top fight facilities—our student athletes deserve it, it’s wonderful and it wouldn’t be possible without Ernie DiBurro. So, thank you Ernie.”
DiBurro said he originally proposed the building for the high school campus, but different scenarios brought the concept to Riverside Park, then Winnekenni Park before going full circle.