The Norma Chase tennis courts on Church Street in Tisbury have no nets, leaves on the courts and grass breaking through the clay. The courts will see a return in the future after some repairs, but for the second consecutive summer, no tennis was played there.
In May 2020, the future of the courts was the subject of a restricted meeting of the board of directors. When city officials last spoke publicly about the courts, they were met with an angry Zoom crowd worried that the courts would be turned into a parking lot. Instead, city leaders vowed to retain and improve the courts.
Carolyn Wallis, a member of the open spaces and recreation committee, said the select council referred the matter to the then newly formed committee to make a recommendation. Wallis recalled the concern expressed by court neighbors and the tennis community over their possible departure.
“It was a special place,” Wallis said. The courts are in a historic part of Tisbury and have been part of the town for many years, “adding a certain charm” to the area.
After this 2020 meeting, the committee conducted a survey of parks and public spaces in Tisbury, including the courts. The survey assessed what was already working, what needed improvement, and what people thought of these locations. “There was a lot of support for him to continue to be [Church Street] tennis courts,” Wallis said. “There were no positives [from those surveyed] because it is a parking space.
After weighing the opinions of Tisbury residents, the committee recommended to the select council to retain the courts, which was approved. The committee then developed the open space and recreation plan, which is necessary to secure state funding for the projects. The committee also requested Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for the courts and existing parking lot. According to Kirk Metell, manager of Tisbury’s public works department, Tisbury will use $250,000 of APC funding to renovate the tennis courts.
The renovations require the replacement of the clay court and the enlargement of the courts. The clay has been thin now so the courts have hard surfaces. Currently the fence is very close to where the nets are and is smaller than regulation size. The parking lot will also be expanded. Wallis said the way the parking lot is currently laid out is inefficient. It will be a one-way car park, will increase the number of parking spaces from 14 to 20 and will have disabled parking. Wallis said, “We’ll see” if overnight parking will be allowed.
Wallis also said the benches should be replaced.
“Hopefully it will be done next summer,” Wallis said. “We don’t have a timetable yet.”
It has been two summers since the courts were properly opened to the public. In 2020 the courts were closed due to COVID. Waiting time between town meetings to get funding approved has also lengthened the reopening process. The DPW put up a sign at the Church Street tennis courts recommending the Lake Street courts to those who want to play.
Wallis said there will be fees for using the courts, although the rates have yet to be decided. All public tennis courts on the island have fees. Wallis believes these fees should be sufficient to support the weekly upkeep that would be required for the Church Street Courts.
“As a committee, we think it’s a wonderful opportunity to have top-notch tennis option and facilities in the city. It’s also close to Tisbury School so hopefully there will be junior tennis or something going on there,” Wallis said. Tennis is a popular sport on the island, and Wallis hopes the completed courts can attract young local talent to the sport, with the possibility of holding clinics at places like the West Chop Club.
The next step for the city is to solicit bids and award a contract for the construction of the courts and parking lot. Wallis said that hasn’t been announced yet, but a timeline should be clearer once a company is chosen. “It’s a busy time right now for tennis court contractors,” Wallis said. “A lot of people want to play tennis.”