Schools close two tennis courts for safety concerns

Players call for more courts while city looks to Parks Master Plan

Cracks and an uneven playing surface remain on the lower tennis courts at Sequim High School. School officials shut down two of the five courts for safety reasons last week.

Cracks and an uneven playing surface remain on the lower tennis courts at Sequim High School. School officials shut down two of the five courts for safety reasons last week.

 

 

Just over a week ago, deep cracks and an uneven playing surface led Sequim School District officials to close two courts at Sequim High School.

This leaves three total courts for public access at the school and in the City of Sequim and five in the Sequim-Dungeness greater area, including Sunland Country Club & Golf Course.

“We tried to fill some cracks over the summer but the cracks are beyond repair,” said Dave Ditlefsen, high school athletic director. “It was a shock to the system. We’ve known for years that they were deteriorating but now they are beyond repair.”

Three upper courts level to the playfields remain open while officials await a cost estimate on repairing or replacing the lower parking lot level courts.

For now, the school’s boys’ tennis matches are being rescheduled 30 minutes earlier to account for the lack of space, Ditlefsen said.

A 2010 estimate of about $66,000 would have placed new asphalt on the two lower courts, resurfaced all the school’s courts and replaced the posts and nets.

Kelly Shea, Sequim School District superintendent, said there isn’t a timeline or cost estimate for repairs and/or replacement now.

“Our first responsibility is safety of our students,” he said. “Boys tennis’ situation is not ideal but they can make do with what they have. However, in the spring time, we anticipate more girl players so it may become problematic.”

Shea said the school district doesn’t have money budgeted for the courts this year, but they were included in the failed proposed $154 million April bond.

“We do set money aside for routine, preventative maintenance but the list is pretty long,” he said.

Don Thomas, a tennis instructor who uses the courts, said one reason for the lack of availability of courts falls to the City of Sequim.

“The city is taking advantage of (the schools) by not providing what they’re supposed to,” he said. “They can wiggle their way around this but in the long run putting tennis courts in Carrie Blake Park is $250,000 now. You don’t raise that kind of money with bake sales and car washes.”

Thomas said city officials have listed tennis courts in the past but always pushed them to the side.

“If their purpose is not to build those courts, why put them in the general plans at all?” he asked.

Joe Irvin, city special projects manager, said plans for city tennis courts most recently date to the “Carrie Blake Park Master Plan Project Report July 1997.”

“It’s been something discussed for two decades,” he said.

Advocates like Thomas have been asking for support from the City of Sequim and Sequim School District for several years including one effort in 2011 to bring an inflatable dome, “The Bubble,” to the high school. However, school board members unanimously voted down the idea after hearing testimony from school staff about costs, esthetics, space and possible vandalism.

Thomas said there were several backers in place to help with maintenance and other costs but once the Bubble was denied, financial support went away.

Public use

Closed and deteriorating courts could pose problems since the three remaining courts are a busy place for both students and the public.

Thomas said there is a seniors group that plays in the weekday mornings, a Sunday afternoon group and multiple tournaments and camps throughout the year.

“The tennis summer camp, sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club (of the Olympic Peninsula), has been very successful,” he said. “My take is that tennis for adults is waning a bit but tennis for kids is increasing quite a bit.”

The school’s courts are made available to the public with the understanding that classes take priority, Ditlefsen said.

Shea said in his experience in other school districts it’s uncommon for the public to have access to school facilities during school hours. However, he said since it’s been a tradition in Sequim for the tennis and pickleball courts to be made available and there aren’t available courts elsewhere he finds it’s one way the schools and community can maintain a relationship.

City’s plans

Paul Haines, Sequim public works director, said in the short term there are no recreational projects budgeted but items like tennis courts likely will come out of the City’s Parks Master Plan.

Irvin said within a month city staff and members of the Parks & Recreation Board will begin prioritizing how tennis court and other items fit into the plan.

“We want to incorporate the community’s needs so we can find a tax base to support that,” he said.

One basis for the Parks Master Plan, Irvin said, is a Parks and Recreation survey from 2011, which residents didn’t specifically identify a need for tennis courts.

“But that doesn’t mean the Parks Master Plan shouldn’t accommodate tennis courts,” he said.

Many sites, such as Dr. James S. Standard Park for athletic events, the Sequim-Shiso Friendship Garden, the Guy Cole Convention Center and the Albert Haller Playfields have been pushed forward by community groups.

But Irvin said the city doesn’t have dedicated funding for parks and recreation development.

One avenue Haines said the city is exploring is multi-purpose properties and when they build something, such as a utility system, they consider basketball and tennis court additions using concrete reservoirs.

 

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