With our new high school well underway, the subject of how best to utilize the limited space on the grounds continues to be a thorny issue.
When I moved to Belmont, tennis courts were available for the varsity tennis team and for residents on Concord Avenue. When the high school was built near ClayPit Pond, 10 tennis courts were part of the athletic program, available for varsity tennis, gym classes, and resident use. They fell into disuse but were continuously used.
But as we build a 21st century high school, tennis courts are no longer part of the plan. All 10 courts were quickly demolished at the start of construction with no plans to replace the courts despite tennis being a college sport.
Since everyone’s attention was riveted on the building itself and there was never an item on the agenda of school committee or building committee meetings, no public discussion of the courts took place. When inquiries into lost courts were made, the land west of Harris Field was always presented as a possible solution. So when the public-private partnership was eliminated by the SelectBoard, hope for tennis began to grow.
But we now know that there was never any intention to replace the lost courts. When the school department and SelectBoard issued a request for proposals for the design of Harris Field, the document instructed Perkins and Will, the architects, to only consider the tennis courts after all other site requirements had been met. satisfied. With this kind of demand, why would the architect bother to be creative? He could simply follow the plans drawn up by the BMHSBC? Naturally, the plans presented at the SelectBoard meeting last week did not include space for tennis courts. They were only shown on a map superimposed on the student parking lot.
Immediately, the superintendent of schools and the city administrator warned against disrupting any parking plan. Two members of the school committee asked about the lack of tennis facilities, but no action was offered other than a mention of a public debate in the future.
So now the varsity sport of tennis seems to have been brought into competition not only with junior varsity field sports, but with parking as well.
There are hundreds of Belmont residents who play tennis and have signed petitions and written about the need for more tennis courts and courts west of Harris Field that can be used by the community as well as for university practices and team matches.
A few years ago, the average homeowner would stay in Belmont for 25 or 30 years, staying in town after their children grew up. They helped pay for the next generation of students. Now the average family stays 10-12 years. We lose their stake in helping the next generation. The city should think of ways to encourage homeowners to stay in our city. Sports facilities that older people can use and enjoy are one way. The development of the Community Way is a good example of this. Enough tennis courts to meet the needs of residents is another as it is a lifelong sport. If we are going to continue to provide us with the services we want, we need to have a significant number of Belmont residents paying taxes and no longer having children in the school system.
It would be a sad commentary on Belmont if the city, which has embraced many forward-looking ideas like net-zero energy and a climate action plan, places student parking that may be limited by the department. school before the tennis courts for use by high schools and residents.