APPROVED: City eyes grant for Wilson Park tennis court renovations

Parks officials hope to soon renovate two full-size tennis courts at Wilson Park, and convert one into four 36-foot courts for children.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Update: The City Council voted 5-3 to accept the grant and move forward. Aldermen Kinion, Ferrell and Lewis voted no, saying despite gaining four junior-sized courts, the loss of one full-sized court was too much for a city with only eight public courts. Mayor Jordan cast the fifth vote needed to pass the item.

Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department officials hope to renovate two public tennis courts at Wilson Park with a grant from the United States Tennis Association.

The City Council will consider accepting the non-matching grant at tonight’s (Aug. 7) regular meeting.

If the money is accepted, the USTA would pay to resurface two of the park’s six full-size tennis courts, one of which will be converted into four 36-foot courts designed for children 10 and younger.

“This is a major push for USTA across the country right now,” said Chase Gipson, recreation superintendent.

Gipson said concerns about a decline in youth tennis participation have led the group to invest money in smaller public courts around the country to attract more children to the sport.

Courts #5 and #6 would be resurfaced if the grant money is accepted.

Photo: Todd Gill

He said tennis is lacking when it comes to adjustments that benefit younger players. With soccer’s move to smaller fields and basketball’s move to lower rims for children, Gipson said other sports are ahead of the curve.

The idea, he said, is to keep children interested in tennis so there will still be adults playing 20 years from now.

Converting a full-sized court into youth-sized courts would reduce the city’s adult tennis court count from eight to seven. Besides the six tennis courts at Wilson Park, there are two public courts at Walker Park.

According to staff documents, parks staff say it’s rare to find all six courts at Wilson Park in use at one time, except from 3 to 6 p.m. during the high school tennis season.

But with a new Fayetteville High School tennis facility set to open next to Asbell Elementary School this fall, high school athletes who normally practice and play matches at Wilson Park aren’t expected to be at the park during those times.

Parks staff have said they’d like to build eight new tennis courts in a regional park planned for southwest Fayetteville, but no date has been set for construction. Although the city owns the land where the park will be located, there’s currently not enough money available to build it.