New courts may be in park’s future 

Enthusiasts of the king’s game could be swinging rackets and charging the nets on new tennis courts in Golden Gate Park if supporters can raise enough money.

With an aged clubhouse and even older tennis courts in Golden Gate Park, The City’s Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Tennis Coalition are pushing for a new 20-court, lighted tennis facility that, if built, would be the jewel of The City’s more than 140 tennis courts.

"It’s a nice facility but it’s older," said Rose Marie Dennis, spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, of the 17-court location called the Golden Gate Park Tennis Complex. "It’d be nice to bring it up to be more representative of a modern tennis facility."

Eight of the courts were built in 1901 and the remaining courts were built in 1913, Dennis said. The clubhouse facility was built in 1960, she added.

A planning committee will meet next week, as backers seek to set up a fundraising committee by the end of this month to raise $23 million for design, construction and maintenance, said Loretta Conway, the co-president of the San Francisco Tennis Coalition and a community coordinator with the U.S. Tennis Association.

Two-thirds of the public tennis courts in The City are "unplayable," and the Golden Gate Park Tennis Complex has the only courts that require a reservation and rental fees to play, Conway said.

By adding lights to the complex, 10 percent more people would use the facility and bring in more than the $15,000 the complex generated in revenue last year, Conway said.

Ideally the new facility would break ground after the International Children’s Games during the summer of 2008 and be completed by the opening of the International Macabee Games during the summer of 2009, Conway said.

"At this point, what’s going on is there’s an interest on everybody’s part to move forward to the next phase," Dennis said. That next phase consists of going to private donors for fundraising help.

Creating a facility that attracts tennis players back into the park would help keep Golden Gate Park healthy and vibrant rather than surrendered to undesirable uses, said Dee Dee Workman, executive director of San Francisco Beautiful, an organization dedicated to maintaining landmarks and saving parks.

When parks are not taken care of, the people who "shouldn’t be using them" generally take over rather than the people "who should be using them," Workman said.

"I think any opportunity that we have to introduce healthy uses into our parks is a good thing," Workman said.

dsmith@examiner.com


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