Residents west of Halifax want limits on how long their neighborhood tennis court can be reserved for private lessons.
There is a large field and a smaller pickleball field at Larry O’Connell Park.
Janine Meade, who lives nearby, said she was not opposed to private lessons, but believes there needs to be a better balance between private and community access.
“All summer, Monday through Saturday, it doesn’t feel right,” Meade said.
“Really, if there is only one lot in a neighborhood, it shouldn’t be the first to be reserved. A policy change has to be made.”
Jamie Power agrees there has to be a careful balance.
His company, Headstart, has been teaching tennis to hundreds of children every year for the past 10 years. Power regularly reserves time on the grounds of St. Mary’s Boat Club, where there are three grounds.
“You don’t want to throw away the lessons because people want to learn to play the sport,” Power said. “But the public needs to have access to the fair game… everyone needs to work together for there to be a balance that most people are happy with.”
Tennis Time is the company that has set aside time on the court at Larry O’Connell Park. He has also reserved tennis courts at Halifax Common, Portland Estates and Tremont Plateau Park in Clayton Park West.
David Greer is the owner of the company. He has played and coached tennis for decades.
He said he moved from the Westmount multi-lot site to Larry O’Connell’s single lot for security reasons related to COVID-19.
He said he books between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and doesn’t think it interferes with a lot of community access.
“You can fire a cannon at these courts during the day,” said Greer. “The Halifax region has 102 courts. This is the highest number per capita in the country.
Greer said actual court usage depends on registration, so there may be days he only uses a few hours, but he reserves the whole day in case the courts need to be moved due to the rain.
He said other public facilities such as ice rinks and pitches are also reserved by private companies.
Shawn Cleary, Halifax West Armdale councilor, thinks HRM staff are already considering recreational access to the facilities, but he’s doing it in a larger context.
“If you think about the big picture beyond your community, there are a lot of courts available on a regular basis,” he said.
Cleary attributes part of the problem to an increased interest in outdoor recreation due to the pandemic.
He points out that the fees that are charged to all private companies that rent recreational facilities from HRM may soon change. HRM staff have reviewed the fees over the past two years and a report is expected in July.
Right now, tennis courts can be booked all day for $ 28. Tennis time costs $ 90 plus HST for a private adult lesson. Adult group lessons cost $ 30 plus HST, while children’s group lessons cost $ 20 plus HST.
Greer is concerned about the fee report, especially after a difficult year of closures.
Power said he was prepared for some increases, but worried the fees were too high for his business to absorb.
“The draft report I saw two years ago included a 400 percent increase in our fees, which would bankrupt us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Meade believes that talking about fee changes doesn’t address concerns she and her neighbors have about access to recreation.
“We want to be able to use our own local facilities, paid for by taxpayers,” Meade said.