The moment that Norm Oeding approached the Newton Town Commission on behalf of his group of friends who enjoy a tennis match twice a week was flawless to say the least.
His discussion of the state of tennis courts in Newton, and the perceived need for improvements, opened the door for the Director of Public Works to announce that the city is considering a project at Athletic Park.
“We have it on our list of things to get estimates for this year, to get work done on the Athletic Park grounds,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works. “Depending on how the estimates fall and the budget will dictate what we can do there. “
It was music to Oeding’s ears. His group has a bit of a hierarchy in choosing a place to play. They start at Bethel College, but if these courts are used by college students or teams, they look elsewhere. Next on the list is Newton High School – and these courts are very busy. They not only organize high school team practices, meets and tournaments, but also college team activities.
If they have to, the squad are heading to Athletic Park – fields that Oeding and his squad say need work to make them truly playable.
“There is a downhill course halfway through Athletic Park,” Oeding said. “One of the fields has an area that needs to be fixed and is a travel area. The only field we play on, it has a post that holds a net and that post needs work. The whole chain link fence. around the courts at Athletic Park, it’s like someone put up the fence and walked away years ago. “
Oeding said these fields are the only playable fields left in town when Newton High School and Bethel College are occupied.
“I don’t know if I would resurface just yet, but they need a bit of work,” Oeding said.
The courts of Roosevelt Park, the site of the former Roosevelt Elementary School, have fallen into disrepair. These are the only courts south of the tracks.
“It seems to me that it should just be ripped up and carried. It won’t be played, it’s dangerous. It’s a safety hazard,” Oeding said. “I don’t know how it went like this, and how it stays like this.”
The public buildings commission and the city are looking at Roosevelt – although the future of this facility is unclear.
“There were discussions [on Roosevelt Park] of trying to work in the pickleball. We had discussions with the [Newton Recreation Commission] about it, “Loomis said.” No decision has been made, this is just the discussion so far. As you know, we don’t have money in the budget for new courts at this time. The reason this is not on our list is the decision made many years ago.
This decision was taken when the Public Buildings Commission was created about 15 years ago. The formation of the PBC led to the renovation of Fischer Field and has since enabled the renovation of several recreational facilities throughout the city.
The discussion that led to the formation of the PBC included representatives from the city, the Newton Recreation Commission, the school district and Bethel College.
“At that point, the decision was made that Bethel College and the school district would take care of the tennis courts, and they would schedule the tennis functions at those facilities,” Loomis said. “… I’m sure that’s why they juggle junior high on the high school tennis courts.”
The Newton Recreation Commission holds a youth tennis camp almost every year, this camp is held at Bethel College.
Oeding believes that a youth program could expand with additional facilities.
“I think there will be more players, more families playing and more children playing, if they have the opportunity to walk to the pitch,” Oeding said.