More Information about what to expect and some talking points.
First off, a reminder: the Open House will be held Thursday, June 24, from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the Municipal Services Center, 5050 East Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80301. And don’t forget to wear your favorite tennis hat so we can recognize each other!
Beyond that, we’ve learned a bit more about what to expect at the Master Plan Open House. As we understand it, the Boulder Parks and Recreation (BPR) folks will first do a brief presentation of the Master Plan Update effort. After that, rather than hold the meeting as a mass audience, they will break it up into smaller groups where we can ask questions, offer opinions, etc.
I know: still not entirely clear. But in a way this format might be better. Often the typical city council-type format involves individuals comandeering a microphone and delivering a mini-speech about their particular issue, be it tennis courts, or bike trails, or dog parks, etc. to a captive auditorium audience. Grueling. But in this case we can spread tennis folks around to the various groups and simply interact with PBR representatives on a less formal basis.
One point here. Let’s try not to make this an “us-versus-them” dialog. I’ve talked to many of the folks at BPR, and they’re all good people who are trying to do their best. The fact of the matter is that they’re in a bind. For whatever reason, City Council has taken their eye off the ball when it comes to funding the traditional facilities that make up a good urban parks and recreation system: up-to-date recreation centers, plentiful neighborhood swimming pools, well-maintained playground equipment, available athletic fields – and yes, more and better tennis courts. BPR is seriously under funded, and has been since long before the Covid crisis. My impression is that they would love for the Boulder community to help them make the case to City Council to step up and start funding the things that need funding, and fixing the things that need fixing. So let’s help them make that case.
Now down to business… I know we all have our particular priority tennis concerns, so feel free to offer them up. But here are a few reminders of talking points and issues that BTA has come across or heard about from you…
- According to BPR’s own survey back in 2014, tennis courts were the second most commonly used category of field or court facilities, second only to open, multi-use fields, and ahead of basket ball courts, soccer fields, volleyball courts, baseball/softball fields, etc. You would think this would inspire the City to fund and maintain tennis facilities accordingly. But that hasn’t been the case.
- In fact, the City has not added any new tennis courts in over 25 years! The last new courts in any of our memories were built at the East Boulder Community Center, and that was in 1992. During this same time span the population of the Boulder area has more than doubled. And that doesn’t even take into account the recent boom in tennis participation. What’s wrong with this picture?
- Pickleballers have every right to pursue their own sport, and we support that right. But the very existence of this new sport, which of course is also played on tennis courts, has made the overcrowding situation even worse. You can’t add a new sport onto already limited court space without building more courts!
Better Courts and Facilities
- You have all seen the photos of the huge cracks in the courts around town. The fact of the matter is that BPR is so underfunded that they’ve had to expand their maintenance cycle so much that by the time a set of courts comes around again for patching or resurfacing, it is already practically unplayable.
- As an example, this year a visiting team playing a league match at the Tom Watson (IBM) courts complained to USTA Colorado about the condition of the courts. Not because they didn’t like the bad bounces, but because they thought the surface was so uneven and cracked that it represented a safety hazard. We would have been offended, but in fact many of our players felt the same way. In a first for BTA history, we have discontinued league play at these courts – one of the few venues big enough for league play – until such time as they can be fixed.
- For most working tennis players, it’s hard to get time off during the day to indulge in the sport they love. And except for a few brief midsummer months, there is not enough daylight to play after work. The answer to the problem is not rocket science – it’s lighted courts. Boulder has far fewer lighted courts that any of the communities around us. And the ones they do have at the Recreation Centers require you to reserve a court and pay for tokens. We might well ask why all the communities around us, such as Longmont, Lousiville, Broomfield, Thornton, etc., can afford to offer lighted courts for free for the flick of a switch, while Boulder, with so fewer lighted courts, requires players to pay for their light?<
- Restroom facilities. What can I say? The Centennial Middle School courts, which are actually under the auspices of BPR, provide one of the premier venues for public court tennis in Boulder. Eight courts, able to hold thirty-two players at a time, and often filled to capacity nearly year round whenever weather allows. And yet the City only provides a couple of porta-johns for four months in the summer. And in fact, they recently removed those two porta-johns, so now we don’t even have them in the summer! Show me thirty-two people who are required to go without a restroom over several hours of tennis (and this includes our younger generation of players, kids) and I’ll show you a sanitation nightmare.
Youth Tennis and Equity Issues
The list can go on, but you get the idea. One final point. It seems there’s a vague sentiment going around that tennis is a rich person’s sport. And that if we don’t like the conditions, we should all just go join a club. This could not be further from the truth. The great majority of players are not club members – they are out on the public courts. This includes people who are just getting started in the sport, and people who can’t afford the membership fees for a club, and kids who just want to get out with their friends to hit the ball around, and parents who are taking the smaller ones out for their first tennis experience. To give short shrift to public tennis courts flies in the face of the values we all claim to prize, values like fostering equity and prioritizing opportunities for our youth.
So, hope you can come to the meeting. And don’t forget to wear your favorite tennis hat!
BTA Board of Directors