The Frank Lorino Park tennis courts face an uncertain future with new development in the area less than a mile away.
The City of Morristown is planning a road development that aims to relieve the anticipated traffic pressure from the 309-unit apartment complex being developed on Thompson Creed Road by Johnson City-based Mitch Cox Companies.
Mayor Gary Chesney said exact details regarding the development of the road were still being worked out.
“It’s always in the air,” he said.
The city is planning improvements to the winding Thompson Creek path that could impact the tennis courts, which are located just off the causeway. Any proposed changes to the area that brings the road closer to the tennis courts could mean they could eventually be relocated.
The Frank Lorino Park tennis courts are the only public courts in the county capable of competitive play. Both county high schools use the courts for games and the Morristown-Hamblen High School East team use the courts for practice.
Ron Bowlin, a tennis coach at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, said although he was concerned about the situation, he trusted the city to find a solution.
“I have always appreciated that the city provides us with land to play on,” he said.
Joey Barnard, deputy city administrator, said the city had received an offer to rebuild the courts in 2019, including fencing and improvements to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bid was $ 632,000 for eight courts, double the amount planned, and the project was delayed. Barnard said the city will take care of the tennis courts and the goal will be to schedule the improvements so as not to interfere with the schools’ tennis seasons.
Barnard said the design of the road improvements at Thompson Creek Road has not been finalized.
“The city has worked with others and there is a future possibility of obtaining funding for the improvement of tennis courts,” he said. “The city recognizes the need to improve the tennis courts.”
Jefferson County recently built their own local high school tennis courts.
Dr Tommy Arnold, supervisor of federal programs and maintenance for the Jefferson County School District, said they completely rebuilt their courts at Jefferson County High School in 2018. The six new courts cost $ 312,000 .
He said additional and unscheduled work at the site to stabilize the ground there cost $ 50,000 and the court lights costing $ 150,000 were paid for with a grant.
A high school tennis coach has concerns.
Parker Ashford, tennis coach for Morristown East, said the two best public courts in Hamblen County are both at Panther Creek State Park, and that it is not large enough for competitive play.
Ashford said it takes at least six pitches for teams to host games and he was concerned about the situation.
“If these courts disappear, our program would be terminated,” he said, “It is a dire situation. We definitely need the city and county to come up with a plan. “