As banners around town proclaim, Clayton is celebrating a number of landmarks this year, not the least of which is the golden anniversary of cityhood. Last Friday, according to Clayton Business & Community Association immediate past president Ed Hartley, “the dynamic of downtown has changed forever.”
Hartley was speaking to a crowd of city officials, donors and proud residents at the unofficial opening of the Ipsen Family Bocce Court at the corner of Main and Oak streets. The four bocce courts had their official grand opening the next morning but this was a time for all involved in the project to share in the accomplishment that Hartley says was first discussed more than a decade before.
Skipolini’s Pizza founder Skip Ipsen and his son Kent, who now run six restaurants that began in Clayton, were especially pleased as the unveiling of the courts on family property coincided with the first major remodel of the adjacent Skipolini’s Pizza since its opening May 3, 1974.
The four bocce courts were christened by representatives of their sponsors — the Gonsalves Family, Mike Rose Auto Body, Republic Services and CBCA—culminating the festivities which included a light-hearted proclamation from the City of Clayton presented by Mayor Hank Stratford and more emotional talks by Skip and Kent Ipsen.
Hartley was pleased to point out that 77 teams comprised of 770 players would begin league play last Sunday. Due to the overwhelming demand there will be Clayton Bocce Leagues held Sunday through Friday evenings plus Sunday afternoon. “We did not want to turn away 200 players so we added Friday night and Sunday afternoon divisions [to the original league plan],” Hartley explained.
For 10 years the Clayton Bocce League operated out of Newhall Park in Concord. Hartley pointed out that his team won the league once while Gonsalves’ team is five-time champs. Neophyte Kent Ipsen promised his rookie outfit will take down Hartley’s veteran squad this year.
The league plans on having play run through late fall, starting up again in the spring. They will monitor how the courts hold up during inclement weather before having any formal winter play. The public is invited to use the courts for free play after 10 a.m. daily until league games start in the late afternoon and all day on Saturday.
Kent Ipsen calls the facility bearing his family’s name “drop dead gorgeous” and sees it benefitting all downtown businesses. “We’re the only bocce facility in the area located in the middle of a business district so that participants can park once and dine, play and shop without having to drive. Most courts (Martinez, Newhall and Baldwin parks in Concord) require participants to drive elsewhere for food and beverages after a game.
Skipolini’s was closed for 10 weeks until mid-May for its first major remodel since opening 40 years ago. The new Skip’s includes an entirely new stainless steel kitchen with enhanced equipment allowing for menu additions such as lasagna. Higher end wines are now available as well.
There are two televisions in the interior dining room and five large-screen TVs outside along with birdcage lights and new heaters from Italy. The revamped patio with a dual-sided fireplace and new play structure will be completed by mid-July. Casual seating envisioned for adults will look out on the bocce courts, which will feature food and beverage service from Skipolini’s.
Ipsen says Skip’s will open for lunch on weekends and says that the adjacent Canesa’s will be expanding their hours as well.