After three years dormant, tennis courts’ future still hazy

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After three years dormant, tennis courts’ future still hazy

The tennis courts have lain mysteriously vacant for three years . Photo: Ciara Weant

The tennis courts have been untouched the past few years while the University tries to determine the wisest course of action for them.

Neal Ring, BJU athletic director, explained that the University is considering different options for the courts. “It’s a stewardship issue and a liability issue,” Ring said. “Those are basically the two bottom lines for us.”

For freshmen, sophomores and juniors, the courts have always been a mysteriously deserted part of campus. But it was not always that way; this is only the third year the courts have been closed.

According to Dr. Bob Jones III, students used to play on the courts regularly. He said that, years ago, students would have to reserve a court far ahead of time to be able to play, and BJU even had tennis classes. In fact, Dr. Bob was an avid tennis player himself. But Dr. Bob said 15 to 18 years ago the interest in tennis began to wane, and the condition of the courts began to decline.

After many years of use, the courts’ surfaces had become severely cracked, largely because of the roots of the trees neighboring the courts. The University decided to repair the courts and scheduled them to be refinished in 2012. But when the time came, the company who had been chosen to do the job was unable to do so.

The administration then reassessed the liability issue presented by the serious damage to the courts, as well as the significant amount of money it would cost to restore them. Dr. Bob said they decided that with such rare utilization of the courts, the University’s money would be better spent where more students would be benefited.

Because of this, the University opted to shut the courts down with the hope that they could be restored later on. However, Ring said  this restoration may no longer happen.

He explained that the only major negative pushback he received from shutting the courts down had nothing to do with tennis. Instead, students were upset about not being able to cross through the courts on their way from the parking lot to the residence halls. In the last two years, he has received fewer than five inquiries into the tennis courts.

But official intercollegiate men’s and women’s tennis teams are part of the University’s future plans, so Ring said tennis courts are not being eliminated entirely from campus. They may simply be built in a different spot if a better use is found for their current location.

Ring said that, in the past, plans were made to build two lighted sand volleyball courts on one end and restore the six tennis courts on the other end. The estimated price for this project is $500,000, or $400,000 for just the tennis courts. Ring said that because of the unsightly and dangerous conditions of the courts, fixing one court is not an option right now, nor would it serve the recreational needs of the student body.

Nothing is certain yet about what will be happening to the tennis courts, but the space will be used wisely and provisions made for future tennis teams. Until then, there are courts available nearby for students who enjoy playing tennis, including McPherson Park, Cleveland Park and Tindale Avenue Park, all of which are less than 10 minutes away from campus.

Any student who would like to see the tennis courts reopened in the future and would use them, can email Neal Ring at nring@bju.edu.