Regional Tennis Center

OpEd article in Union Tribune 2/6/03
Regional Tennis Center

First, last month the Encinitas City Council approved a plan for the new Hall Property Park, with soccer, baseball fields and a world class swimming center.  Then Carlsbad announced its plan for the Alga North Park, also featuring a major aquatic center.  Finally, the Encinitas YMCA announced that they are removing their six tennis courts.  Why?  Mainly to make room for an expanded swimming center. So, while this area will soon be awash in lanes for chlorinated lap swimming, what's happening to tennis?

Tennis is my sport (although some observers might challenge this assertion).  When we moved out here from the east coast, before we even looked at houses we checked out the tennis situation.  The six courts at the Y were the clincher.  They will be gone, so now what?  The three hundred people who signed a petition to save the Y courts over a single weekend are asking the same question.

There are plenty of courts in the area; some in exclusive private clubs, others scattered in public parks and private residential communities.  What is missing is a public tennis center like those in LaJolla and Balboa Park.  These were built on city land with city funds, but now operate at no further cost to the public.  Each has a tennis association, open to all at moderate cost, that pays for all maintenance and runs the programming.  And what programming they have.  Tournaments for all levels and age groups up to 90 year olds, (where just showing up gets you a medal) leagues, mixers and clinics. Pee Wee and junior classes along side of senior games.  Balboa even has a special challenge court, no reservation needed,  just pop in and play.

The key to the success of these centers is the concentration of courts in one location.  There is a minimum number, around ten, that is required to produce special events while maintaining regular weekly programs.  With this activity level, facilities such as rest rooms, food stands and pro shop become self sustaining.  In Manhattan, one such tennis association has fund raisers featuring top tennis pros and world class entertainers. People are eager to volunteer their services and join the association.   

Since this type of center would draw players from the entire region, funding should be equally broad based, perhaps involving several coastal cities and the county.  The Hall property, while planning is still in flux, could be a good setting.  This type of public-private facility has been successful across the country. More than just an amenity, it becomes an attraction that adds luster to its surroundings. Our unique strip of sun kissed paradise deserves nothing less. 

Al Rodbell