By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport City Council members and citizens verbally volleyed viewpoints at council’s Feb. 20 meeting regarding the potential construction of two additional tennis courts in Degenhart Park.
Currently Degenhart Park has three existing lighted tennis courts.
Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall said the total cost estimate for the proposed two additional courts are: with lights, $293,287; without lights $218,287. An additional $30,000 would be needed to move a sewer line to accommodate the new courts.
“If council decides to approve this, they will need to decide on whether to install lights at the two additional courts,” said Hall.
Council appears split on whether to build two more courts in Degenhart Park with council members Shawn Cleary, Ed Dildine, and Becky Hutson speaking against the issue and Jean Ann Hilbert and Scott Lockett favoring the idea. Councilman Marvin Stevens said he needs more time to research and evaluate the matter before making a decision.
Chris Brown, who runs the Groveport Tennis Academy at the Groveport Recreation Center, said five courts are needed for tennis teams to play matches. He said the extra courts at Degenhart Park would enable the group to play “home” matches in Groveport instead of having to travel 16 miles to Reynoldsburg High School’s Summit Road campus to play.
“The interest is there (for tennis),” said Brown, who noted the tennis program has grown from 30 people in 2010 to 90 in 2018.
Resident Jim Beidler said adding the courts is, “An opportunity for us to fix something that will improve the image of our town all around the area.”
Pickleball enthusiast Mila Sayre-Santis said the extra courts would not only help tennis players, but also provide more courts for pickleball players. (Pickleball courts are often laid out on tennis courts.)
“Pickleball is a fast growing sport,” said Sayre-Santis, adding that the city could host pickleball tournaments which could bring hundreds of players to town and enhance revenue for the city and local businesses.
“Groveport could become a hub for pickleball,” said Sayre-Santis.
However, resident Charles Glaser, whose home neighbors Degenhart Park, is opposed to building two more courts in the park. He thinks the larger Groveport Park is a better location for additional courts.
“Degenhart Park is a small, neighborhood park,” said Glaser. “It’s not designed for this. Groveport Park is larger and a better fit. There’s more room there and more parking.”
Councilman Scott Lockett said he does not believe adding the two courts will harm the feel of Degenhart Park.
“We need to look to the future,” said Lockett. “I don’t want tennis players to have to travel to Reynoldsburg to play. I don’t want Groveport to play second fiddle to anyone. There’s definitely a need because of the significant growth in pickleball alone.”
Groveport Parks and Recreation Director Kyle Lund noted that in 2015, when the city began offering pickleball, there were 42 players at the Groveport Recreation Center. By 2017 there were 669 players.
Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert said it would be cheaper to build two tennis courts at Degenhart Park instead of five new ones in Groveport Park.
“We need to meet the needs of our recreational tennis groups,” said Hilbert. “It’s embarrassing that we have only three courts and have to stagger matches. Why can’t we have enough courts?”
Hall said in 2010 it was estimated it could cost $612,500 to build five new tennis courts in Groveport Park, a figure that would be higher in 2018 numbers.
Council President Shawn Cleary said he opposes adding courts to Degenhart Park because it would “overwhelm that neighborhood” and that there is insufficient parking available at the park for large crowds.
Cleary also said tennis groups could look into working with Groveport Madison High School for the potential shared use of the five new tennis courts that will be built at the new high school.
Councilwoman Becky Hutson feels Degenhart Park does not have enough land to add two more courts, but also is concerned about the cost, adding, “I can’t see spending the money.”
Hilbert countered, “The cost is a drop in the bucket compared to what we spend elsewhere.”
Councilman Ed Dildine also is concerned about the potential cost stating, “I think there will be more pressing projects that will need that money in the future. I also don’t want to disrupt the feel of Degenhart Park.”
Dildine agreed with Cleary that the new tennis courts to be built at the new high school could be an option for the tennis group, pointing out the group is already working with Reynoldsburg High School to use their courts.
Dildine added, in his observations, there are more kids using the Degenhart Park basketball court and swings than the tennis courts and that maybe building a full sized basketball court might be a better recreational use option.
Council will decide whether or not to build the two additional tennis courts at its Feb. 26 meeting.