Jan. 20—HAVERHILL — Local businessman Ernie DiBurro has donated more than $1 million in recent years to Haverhill High School’s athletics program.
Now, DiBurro, a member of Haverhill High’s Class of 1952, is preparing to donate another $1 million to erect a building on the high school campus that will house several indoor tennis and pickleball courts for student use and public.
“I’ve been very successful and I want to give back to the school where I was raised,” he said.
DiBurro opened the Academy Lanes bowling complex in Bradford in 1963 and he and his family continue to run the business. He shows up to work every day as cheerful and as bright as ever.
In recent years, DiBurro has donated money to renovate and outfit a fitness room at the Charles C. White Pool on the high school campus and also paid for the construction of a large iron entrance gate leading to the grounds. sports hall with a cobblestone and brick walkway. and steel vault. He also paid for fencing to secure the sports fields and for lighting around the track.
Additionally, DiBurro paid for all costs associated with the electronic announcement board at the front of the high school. He also donated thousands of dollars in scholarships.
Most recently, he donated $800,000 to build and fully equip a state-of-the-art athletic club at Lincoln Avenue Stadium, bringing his total monetary contribution to Haverhill High’s athletics program to approximately $1.4 million.
DiBurro is now aiming for an indoor tennis and pickleball complex and is contributing $1 million to the project. He said he plans to start construction in the spring.
“I am an avid tennis player and I want these indoor courts to be available to the tennis team all year round without the team having to cancel a match due to weather,” said- he declared. “The mayor loves the idea, especially since the courts will also be available for playing pickleball. All we have to do now is make some adjustments to the lines and change the nets.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the city would likely cover any costs over $1 million using its capital projects account.
“We think the million will cover it, but if it goes over a bit, we understand,” Fiorentini said. “We’re not going to ask Mr. DiBurro to get it back, the city will pay for it.”
School superintendent Margaret Marotta said DiBurro’s donation has yet to be formally accepted by the school committee.
“I’m thrilled for our athletes and the community that we’re going to have this great opportunity here at Haverhill High, which has some of the best athletic facilities available,” she said.
Principal Jason Meland said he wants the best for his students and student-athletes.
“We are grateful to Mr. DiBurro for being able to provide this for our students,” he said.
A former member of the Haverhill High School Building Committee which monitored the school’s renovation progress, DiBurro also served on the Hunking School Building Committee which helped break ground a new Hunking, and is currently part of the Consentino School Building Committee.
He says he knows what is needed to build an indoor tennis court building, which he says can be erected on a grassy lot in front of the Charles C. White Pool on the high school campus.
DiBurro expects the courts to be rented out to the public to generate revenue for the school’s athletic programs.
“The public could use it outside working hours and pay for their time,” he said.
Athletic director Tom O’Brien said the building would be a huge boost to the school’s tennis program and would be the only indoor court among area high schools.
“It will also allow our student-athletes to train and play all year round and we will also use it for our physical education classes for tennis and pickleball,” he said.
The high school tennis season runs from March through June, and tennis is the sport that gets canceled the most in inclement weather, O’Brien said.
“While other sports can be played, even if it’s raining, tennis courts are just too slippery,” he said.
“I don’t know what we would do without him because his generosity is second to none,” O’Brien said of DiBurro. “And he really cares about our student-athletes. Every contribution he makes, he makes sure the student-athletes benefit.”