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Closing courts would be a net loss for city, tennis backers say

Trish Clabaugh, left, is one of many speakers urging the Price Council to keep all tennis courts open.

Sun Advocate reporter

When the Price City Council held a meeting on Aug. 10, included within the consent agenda was a proposed project that would have seen the Price City tennis courts closed down at the end of October. The topic was never discussed at the meeting among the city council or other city officials. Attendance at the meeting was sparse.

But when the possible closure of the tennis courts and the proposed expansion to the Wave Pool complex became more widely known among the public, a number of people took action.

So when the Price City Council met on Wednesday with the tennis courts closure on the agenda, there was not a seat to be found in the council's chamber. Tennis players from the public and from Carbon High School, Carbon School District officials and many other concerned citizens jam-packed the room so full, many people were left standing out in the hallway trying their best to hear everything that was being discussed.

Nick Mahleres and Robert Richens, both members of a committee created to save the city's tennis courts, spoke to the council about the importance of the tennis courts to the community.

After first hearing about the closure and the possible future demolition of the tennis courts, a meeting was held one week before the city council meeting by people including the Carbon High tennis teams and their coaches and other tennis players in the area looking for ways they could convince the council to reverse their decision to close down the courts.

While there is a lot of work to do going forward, Richens said the committee is looking to partner with the city council, among other entities, to help keep the tennis courts open to the public. The committee came to the meeting with three core points they wanted to present to the city, Richens said. They wanted the city to reverse their previous decision to close down the work together to address the safety concerns pointed out by the city with the condition of the tennis courts and work with the council to appoint a liaison from the city to bring all of the work together.

"There must be a concerted effort with everyone involved with this project," Richens explained.

That concerted effort to save the tennis courts will almost certainly involve a search for funding to help bring the courts back up to top shape. Richens said that some new courts being built have a guaranteed 20-year life span and, if they are properly maintained, they could last up to 40 to 50 years. If the city was to install new courts with cement, re-bar and the playing surface, the general cost estimates show it could cost up to $40,000 to $50,000 per court, or up to $300,000 for all six courts, according to Richens.

Leaving no stone unturned in a search for funding for the project, Richens said possible funding sources could include the Carbon County Recreation Transportation Special Service District, the United States Tennis Association, gas and oil companies in the area and many others. The main pitch behind the push for funding would be to continue to reinvigorate the playing of tennis by members of the community and continue to provide a centralized location for residents in the community to play the sport, Richens said.

One wild card in all of this could be the Carbon School District. The district has been working on a master plan which would include the building of tennis courts on the property of Carbon High School. The tentative idea is to build a tennis court complex, complete with lighting, near the Carbon High baseball field. However, the district's master plan is still in its infancy, according to Carbon School District Board Member Jeff Richens.

"The work might be as far as two years away from now," Richens said. "We hope that the current tennis courts can be kept open for at least two more years."

While many in the crowd at the meeting were in support of keeping the courts open, none may be more affected by a decision than members of the Carbon High tennis teams. Members of the girls and boys tennis teams were in attendance, with the girls team donning their Carbon High blue shirts in a show of solidarity and support for keeping their home courts open for the foreseeable future.

"The boys and girls teams are getting to a peak right now," said Taran White, a Carbon High senior who plays on the girls tennis team. The tennis program at Carbon High was closed down for a period of time before it was brought back to the school. Many of the seniors currently in the program were a part of the team that came together when tennis was brought back to the school.

"We want to continue on and reach success for both the boys and girls teams," White said noting if the tennis courts were to be closed down, the closest tennis courts in the area are located in Emery County.

One main deterrent against keeping open the tennis courts is the issue of safety, according to city officials. The city's risk management has deemed the courts too unsafe for use by tennis players. Carbon High Tennis coaches Tom Alleman and Pete Riggs said they have found cracks on the playing surface which have been filled in by the city before, the top layer of asphalt is separating and splitting in some areas and the overall age of the courts, which are said to be at least 30 years old and could be up to 50 years old for some of the courts.

Both Alleman and Riggs, along with members of the Carbon High tennis teams and other tennis playing members of the public present at Wednesday's council meeting, have said the courts are in need of repair but are still useable for play in their current condition.

With the tennis courts committee looking to work with the city, Mayor Joe Piccolo said the city council will work with the committee on trying to find a solution to the issue. Piccolo suggested that the committee first develop a strategic plan for the tennis courts by bringing together all of the entities involved in the project. Those entities could include the tennis courts committee, the Price City Council, Price City staff, Carbon School District, USU Eastern, Carbon Recreation and possibly others, according to Robert Richens.

Piccolo stressed that the committee work on taking things one at a time so progress can be made. Piccolo and other council members agreed on a plan that would have the tennis courts committee return to the city council at the end of next month with a strategic plan to be reviewed by the city council and city staff. While Piccolo said the city council will all play an active role in working with the committee, the council appointed Councilman Jeff Nielson as a liaison to work with the committee on the issue.

The council passed a unanimous motion requiring the committee to bring a strategic plan back to the council by the end of September. Councilman Richard Tatton said the plan should not exceed a period of five years and should not add significant costs to the city's budget.

Members of the tennis courts committee were happy with the city's decision to work on a possible plan to keep the courts open past Oct. 31. While there is still a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks, progress is being made, according to Richens.

"I thought the meeting went very well and the city council seems to be very open to discussing ideas about the tennis courts," he said after the meeting. "We need to find short-term funding to go against the assessment from risk management of the courts not being safe."

"I'm confident that everyone will come together to work on this," he said.

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