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Paddle tennis advocates net Parks & Rec support to upgrade facilities

Published 1:13 pm, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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  • The existing paddle tennis court at Llngshore Park Club will be replaced by two new ones under a plan approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News
    The existing paddle tennis court at Llngshore Park Club will be replaced by two new ones under a plan approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Order in the court!

So spoke the Parks and Recreation Commission last week when it voted unanimously to replace the existing paddle tennis court at Longshore Club Park and also add a second.

Following a presentation by two avid paddle tennis players from town, the commission agreed the project would pay for itself based on anticipated revenue over 20 years.

"I love this concept in general and I think we should support it," said Commissioner Steve Axthelm, who said he wants to see interest in the sport spread.

Ward Doonan, who gave a slide presentation, along with Mark Steffen, told the panel's May 21 meeting there would be many opportunities to do just that. "It's a simple sport," he said of paddle tennis, noting that it continues to grow in popularity, especially in the Northeast.

"It's for all levels," he said, noting that he plays regularly with a 78-year-old athlete with two replaced hips.

"Even in its current state, the single Longshore court has had strong demand," he noted in the presentation. Doonan said nearly 200 people from town have expressed an interest in the game and that more would get involved if more court time were available.

Doonan and Steffen suggested changing the way fees are paid for paddle tennis, basing it on the hand-pass method used for standard tennis. Currently people reserve hour-and-a-half weekly time slots for the entire season for a flat fee.

By issuing hand passes, the advocates believe the town will not only make more money with a moderate fee increase for players, but that the players will have more opportunity and flexibility. They also explained that use of the hand passes will potentially save time for Parks and Recreation Department staffers.

Based on current expenses, they estimate an $8,000 annual maintenance fee for the courts. Assuming a bonded cost of $150,000 paid over 20 years at 4 percent interest rate, they said that $10,500 yearly cost would bring total annual expenditures to $18,500 including the maintenance.

According to their calculations, annual profits from the enterprise could reach nearly $30,000 a year.

One resident, David Levin, expressed unhappiness with the proposal.

"I think there are so many other areas that are in neglect," he said, noting that the golf course is in disrepair, among other things.

"There are so many other areas where we should be spending our money," he said. "Where are the priorities? ... I as a taxpayer think this is a bad investment."

"But if it's covered 100 percent by user fees?" asked Chairman Charles Haberstroh. "From what I heard the maintenance and the capital costs are covered by the user fees."

"But is this the best use of the land that's there?" Levin asked.

In order to accommodate what some commissioners said is a growing interest in pickleball as well, it was agreed that one of the paddle tennis courts also would be fitted with the lines for that game, since it can be played on the same-size court.