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Tennis players look for their own facilities

Tennis Balls

While members of the tennis community don’t mind pickleball players having a place to play, they wonder if they are going to get courts as well.

Bill Seagris, president of the Greater Amherstburg Tennis League (GATL), appeared before town council last week noting their desire to have new tennis courts closer to home.

Seagris said he watched the presentation from Amherstburg Pickleball Association (APA) at a mid-January budget meeting and credited APA board member Linda DiPasquale for doing a “fantastic job.”

“Our point is not that pickleball should not exist,” said Seagris. “It’s a great sport. They need facilities as well but so do we.”

Seagris said there were 12 tennis courts in Amherstburg at one point but that number has decreased.

“Now we are down to two and they are not good at all,”  said Seagris.

The town has done some repair work to the tennis courts at Anderdon Park, but Seagris pointed out he sees puddles forming on the courts there after a rainfall.

New courts at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School do not have puddles on them.

Local tennis players often use courts at the Vollmer Centre in LaSalle or courts in Windsor including Forest Glade.

“We’re still looking for adequate courts here,” said Seagris.

The GATL has 377 members with 244 being active last year, he added. The league is active in the community as members donated to a local food bank and donated used equipment to North Star High School.

With reference to the large crowd the APA brought with them to the Jan. 15 meeting, Seagris said the GATL could have done the same.

“If I would have known lobbying would have made a difference, I would have had members e-mail council also,” he said.

Councillor Molly Allaire noted a comment about Seagris helping to consult in other municipalities about courts and wondered if something like that ever occurred in Amherstburg. Seagris stated he has spoken to people in the past but also said he has e-mailed town officials with no reply.

Councillor Diane Pouget apologized to the group, stating she didn’t think they had anything to worry about in this year’s budget. Pouget said there were references to “tennis/pickleball courts” in the 2024 budget documents. Town council asked for $500,000 to be put into the 2025 budget for tennis courts at H. Murray Smith Centennial Park but Pouget didn’t seem optimistic about the chances of finding that money in addition to $500,000 for a pump track at the Libro Centre. She had voted in opposition to the eight pickleball-only courts during budget deliberations.

Councillor Don McArthur called it “a body blow” that courts were lost at both H. Murray Smith Centennial Park and Malden Centre Park.

“I agree with you we need more hard court surfaces,” said McArthur.

McArthur acknowledged the tennis courts at Anderdon Park need work but pointed out there are courts available at Co-An Park in McGregor. He added that he went to bat for the courts at Villanova but took shots because the courts are actually in LaSalle. He defended his vote for eight dedicated pickleball courts by stating the APA could bring in tournaments and clinics and spur economic development. He also pointed out the economies of scale that could be achieved and the possibility of a hard court surface next to the eight pickleball courts.

Seagris said while it not ideal for tennis players to play with pickleball lines on the court, it is possible and called for the continuation of shared courts until more long-term planning is done. He said pickleball lines were placed on tennis courts and the tennis community was asked to share.

“We managed to survive,” said Seagris.

Tennis has been “underfunded” in Amherstburg as have other amenities, Seagris added, noting there are youth who want basketball courts. He stated he considers the Vollmer Centre his home courts.

“I find that sad because I’m a tennis player in this community,” said Seagris.

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb indicated it all comes down to money. He also defended his vote in favour of eight pickleball-only courts. Gibb said if the money were available, he would like to see not only tennis and pickleball courts, but a boat ramp, more walking trails, baseball diamonds, and a swimming pool.

Amenities have been lost over the years, he added, and it will take time to regain those.

“Things didn’t go downhill in one term and they won’t be fixed in one term,” he said.

Gibb added the town has a five-year capital plan but there are a lot of items that have to be considered.

“If we could we would,” he said about rebuilding amenities. “We just don’t have the money to do it all at once.”

Councillor Linden Crain said Amherstburg has the lowest reserves of any municipality in Essex County.

“You can’t build Rome in a day,” said Crain. “There are a lot of competing interests.”

Mayor Michael Prue stated the five-year capital plan didn’t have anything earmarked for H. Murray Smith Centennial Park until 2028 but wants money designated for next year for park facilities.

“We recognize the importance,” said Prue. “We’re trying to do everything we can.”

By Ron Giofu

Tennis players look for their own facilities

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