Tennis player Nick Bailey was devastated to find the doors of three tennis courts on 53rd Street and Catherine Avenue in La Grange padlocked on July 9.
“It’s disappointing that they can’t find some kind of compromise to continue. It’s going to sit there, be inviting and no one can use it,” Bailey, 42, said.
He is not alone. Nearly 300 people have signed an online petition titled “Save Spring Avenue Tennis Courts.” They are named after the primary school nearby.
The tennis courts were closed July 1 because the La Grange Park District voted unanimously in June not to renew a 10-year intergovernmental agreement with La Grange School District 105 on whose land find the park.
The school district’s liability insurance company advised him to close the tennis courts for safety reasons.
The agreement, initiated in 1992, has since been renewed twice.
In the agreement, the park district pays 100% of the maintenance costs for the courts that belong to the school district. The school district is willing to consider cost sharing.
Bailey, who lives a block away in Countryside, frequently plays tennis on the courts or practices her serves there against a large wooden board.
When told there were liability insurance issues regarding the cracks in the courts, Bailey grimaced.
“Get out of town,” Bailey said. “Which is worse? Not being able to use it or seeing some of your serves go a bit because they hit a crack. I’ve never seen anyone go down.
The park district “has limited resources,” executive director Jenny Bechtold said, which forced the decision not to renew the agreement.
School District 105 Superintendent Brian Ganan said, “We didn’t want to close the courts.
“Our insurance company said to close them immediately because they are a liability risk. So we did,” he said. “We tried to work with the park district to find a solution, to come together to repair the courts.”
“Courts are what they are,” Ganan said. ” They are bad. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but there’s maybe four inches of grass in the cracks. It’s not up to standard in many areas. It shows when it rains. »
The school district hopes to come to “an amicable solution,” Ganan said, adding that the district “knows the community is using them.”
Tennis players are often seen here from dawn to dusk, except during the winter months and on rainy days. Many children have learned to ride a bike there. Hot games of Whiffle Ball and street hockey are often played on the courts, which are not lit.
Ganan and Bechtold have heard of frustrated tennis players.
“It hurts to put our name on this letter,” Ganan said. “We were hoping to find a solution. … When the day comes, here we are, we have to do it.
Bechtold said the park district board decided to let the agreement expire and focus resources on other priorities.
“[The tennis courts] are at end of life and need capital life cycle replacement,” she said.
The last time the courts were fully renovated was in 2004, she said. Regular maintenance is “quite expensive”, she added.
“It depends on what you must have done, but filling and sealing the cracks every three or four years can cost between $30,000 and $50,000. And it’s getting more and more expensive,” Bechtold said.
When asked if the school district would be willing to share maintenance costs, Gana replied, “I think that’s something we’d be open to.”
In the meantime, there are tennis players like Countryside’s John Hunter, who had hoped to practice hitting 150 serves against a large wooden board at the west end of the courts in the late afternoon of July 9.
Hunter was seen shaking his head after reading the notice at the padlocked door.
“Now I’ll drive up [the courts at] Gilbert Park,” Hunter, 60, said. “There are some very nice [courts] in Western Springs too, but it happens to be three and a half minutes from where I live. I kinda like that.
The Park District maintains four tennis courts in Gilbert Park and four in Sedgwick Park, Bechtold said.
“We want to support recreation in parks across the community, but, again, we have limited resources,” Bechtold said. “We have our own facilities and infrastructure that we also need to take care of.”
Residents like David Wong, who lives across the street, believe both entities should support the tennis courts.
Wong, whose daughter plays tennis for Lyons Township High School, started a “Save Spring Avenue Tennis Courts” petition at change.org/SpringTennisCourts.
By 9 p.m. on July 12, 303 people had signed his petition.
“The original purpose of the intergovernmental agreement was to provide adequate playgrounds and recreational facilities at the most economical cost to the residents and ratepayers of the school district and the park district, which should continue to be the collective goal,” Wong said on July 11.
He urged the park district and the school district to work together to find a solution.
“We, along with the more than 290 individuals and families who have signed the petition so far, are both shocked and disappointed to learn that the La Grange Park District Board of Commissioners and the District School Board 105 have not been able to come to an agreement and make decisions that allow the courts to continue to serve the community,” Wong said.
Petition signer Rosemary Murphy wrote “it’s a no-brainer to fix them”, adding “do your job!”