The president of the Park Rapids Tennis Association (PRTA) addressed the city council July 12 to respond to recent statements from council members regarding the Depot Park tennis court replacement project.
By June 28, the city council had rejected all bids for the project, which amounted to $900,000 or more, well above the technical estimate of $600,000. The proposal was to replace the current asphalt courts with post-tensioned concrete.
At that time, City Engineer Jon Olson had recommended “moving in a different direction which might be a lesser type of improvement”, and council member Erika Randall had remarked: “The tennis association maybe had something in mind that was a little out of reach, not mirroring normal tennis courts. Hopefully they can come down to earth a bit and get close again.
Peterson began by praising city staff for cooperating with the project since 2018. She noted that during that time she had worked with four different city administrators, two city treasurers, and a park manager and urban planner who are no longer here.
“Needless to say, there were repetitive explanations about the project and getting approval to move forward,” she said. However, she praised the current administrator, Angel Weasner, for being “accurate, informed, direct and (showing) wonderful leadership”.
Responding to the June 28 remarks, Peterson said she wanted to “clarify for council and the city any misunderstandings” of the PRTA’s position on the project.
“We didn’t come here to ask the city to build courts for us,” she said. “We came here to get involved and commit to building courts for the town and all county community residents, other schools, summer residents, vacationers. It’s more economical for the city.
Responding to Randall’s remark about “normal tennis courts,” Peterson said, “Correct. They weren’t normal. But there is a reason. The courts we had in the past did not last. The asphalt is breaking down. So, we went with something that, no, hasn’t been to parks in the past.
Peterson said the outdoor sports industry is moving towards concrete for longevity.
She said the current members of PRTA recognize that whatever the design, it will be gone before the courts are no longer playable. “Our efforts have been future … to reduce costs in the city for maintenance and replacement.”
Peterson said PRTA members spent 800 to 1,000 volunteer hours fixing the current courts, and an attempted professional fix only made matters worse. “So yeah, we didn’t recommend what was normal – asphalt. … We had a committee that researched different types of courts.
She said they found two alternatives to asphalt – reinforced and post-tensioned concrete. The latter, she said, is “a newer method, which has proven to be an excellent surface, of superior quality and durable. …costs the most.
Peterson said the PRTA recommended concrete to the city, citing the good condition of the concrete pickleball courts at Heartland Park.
“The goal then was to reduce future long-term replacement costs, as we do now, and intermittent and frequent repairs and costs,” she said.
In response to Randall’s comment that the PRTA had “sights on something that was a little out of reach,” Peterson said, “yes. We set our goals high, and that was to help provide the best we could, raising money for our city’s parks now and in the future.
She said after speaking to a contractor in Colorado who worked with post-tensioned concrete, the PRTA felt their goals were achievable. “The next step in research is…we need to find out if it can happen here, because it’s unusual,” she said.
Peterson noted that the PRTA raised funds from members and other donors, successfully applied for a $250,000 grant, and secured a city commitment of up to $60,000, or 10% of the estimated cost. of the project.
She said the PRTA has not questioned the size of the city’s share in the project and has pledged to raise the rest of the funds, which are now in a city-managed fund.
Peterson said that as of March 2021, the project as described by the city engineer was fully funded, including the grant awarded that summer. However, due to federal delays, they were unable to put the project up for competition until April of this year.
“We were always ready to go to (Plan) B, which is reinforced concrete,” Peterson said, noting that she was at the opening of the bids and the discussion that followed: “That price is crazy. We move on to reinforced concrete. I’ve worked with Jon Olson before. I have a committee of two or three people ready to work with him.
Citing Randall’s suggestion to “re-approach” the project, Peterson said, “It was approached even before it was turned down.”
She concluded by thanking everyone who continues to support the project and said that PRTA will continue to work with the city to make it happen.