Janie Miller, an avid tennis player from the Santa Fe area, said she spent part of a recent weekend going to local parks with a friend so they could inspect the tennis courts. tennis maintained by the city.
What she found concerned her.
Miller said just over half of the 19 public tennis courts spread across five different parks across the city are unplayable or in need of serious repair. The problems included a worn or cracked coating.
“The tennis courts that I played on, the courts in Larragoite, I wouldn’t even consider playing on these for the past five years,” she said. “It is a problem.”
It’s an issue that the city’s acting director of the city’s parks division, Melissa McDonald, said she was well aware of and was trying to resolve.
McDonald said the city plans to completely rebuild eight lots spread across Herb Martinez, Larragoite and Atalaya parks and resurface the remaining lots in Salvador Perez and Ron Shirley / Alto Park starting in the spring.
The plan, McDonald added, is to redo all the grounds in six months at a cost of around $ 1.6 million, with those at Herb Martinez Park identified as the top priority.
“We 100% agree with the community that this must be a priority to move forward,” she said. “These courts are not in good shape.”
McDonald said the city was hoping to combine some impact fees with state dollars to fund the repairs.
McDonald said the Herb Martinez, Atalaya and Larragoite courts are made of weak asphalt, which is inferior to concrete courts. This leads to a shorter shelf life. But the city hopes to replace those courts with concrete that will last 20 to 30 years.
“[Martinez Park] the court is in the worst condition, ”said McDonald. “There are four courts there and if they are rehabilitated it would take enormous pressure off Alto and Salvador Perez [parks]. “
Jim Hille, a Santa Fe resident, tennis player and frequent golfer who also volunteers as the Santa Fe Pickleball Club’s fundraising president, said it wasn’t just the surface of the courts that players are interested in. of tennis.
“What someone who just wants to enjoy learning the game expects from a tennis court is different from someone who plays with passion,” Hille said. “The people who play it with passion, they have expectations that are just a few steps higher.”
For serious Santa Fe tennis players, anything from a crack in the surface to a slight sag in the net to a lack of wind shield can affect a player’s performance and enjoyment.
But Hille added that the ability to have a refreshed and solid bunch of courts is a boon for players, in part because the current state of facilities leaves only a few usable venues and creates a wait.
“You don’t drive to two court complexes hoping to try to find one open,” Hille said. “Before you know, you’re running out of time. When there are groups of four or five together, this is usually where you will find the more serious players. “
McDonald said the problems with the local tennis courts came to light after the city’s decision to remove the two tennis courts from the Fort Marcy recreation complex in favor of six pickleball courts – including new surfaces, windshields and nets.
Some have complained about the movement created in the space available for tennis.
“When we have fields that are not in great condition, but there is a demand from various groups, it becomes that problem and pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports,” said McDonald said.
Pickleball is played on an area about half the size of a tennis court with a large oversized paddle and a Wiffle ball. It has become increasingly popular in Santa Fe, with the local club currently numbering over 400 members.
Fort Marcy became the de facto home of pickleball, which led to negotiations with the city to paint lines on existing tennis courts. Later, an official request came to permanently convert the tennis courts into a pickleball venue.
Jeff Holbrook, president of the Santa Fe Pickleball Club, said the group had never wanted to interfere with tennis players in Fort Marcy, but its members identified the park as the club’s No.1 target.
He said the condition of some of the other pitches the club examined would have doubled the cost of installation.
McDonald said she has spoken to members of the tennis community to let them know that tennis courts are the department’s next priority.
“I think we can agree that this is going to be a good thing for all members of the community who want to have good courts of all kinds,” she said.