For a moderately sized community with a limited municipal budget, finding funds for development, facility renovations and program expansion is a struggle–something that Salisbury Parks and Recreation knows well. In recent years, citizen involvement and advocacy have played a crucial role in providing new recreational opportunities in the North Carolina community, including the development of a new state-of-the-art tennis complex.
First built in the late 1950s, the City Park Tennis Complex is situated on 41 acres of lush park land adjacent to a fully staffed recreation center and a 3-acre fishing lake. The department’s oldest park site, City Park has always experienced significant traffic from neighborhood residents participating in both passive and active recreation. Naturally, these residents–many of whom grew up in the surrounding neighborhood or use the park on a regular basis–support efforts for preservation and future development. The tennis complex, long due for replacement, had been placed on the back burner for more essential items on the city’s capital project list. Life-long resident, avid tennis player and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member, Reid Leonard, began discussing with city council the need for new tennis courts on the existing site. Stressing the importance of no-cost recreational opportunities for area residents, new requirements for tournament play and the deteriorating condition of the existing facility, Leonard’s lobbying efforts eventually moved the tennis courts to the top of the city’s capital-project list in late 2007.
The Wish List
The $300,000 development process began in early 2008 under the direction of Stephen Brown, Parks and Recreation Maintenance Manager. Brown, a licensed and certified landscape architect, also completed the design of the proposed tennis complex. Under the scrutiny of a tight budget, the department began looking at ways to maximize project funds. Brown’s in-house design of the complex saved the department more than $30,000 in design fees. Maintenance staff also saved thousands of dollars by installing brick edging, backboards and intricate landscaping rather than contracting those services. Landscaping and benches were purchased through a donation from Salisbury Pediatric Associates in memory of Dr. Joseph Corpening, a community advocate for youth fitness and a lover of tennis, who played on the old tennis courts for decades. His family also dedicated a granite marker in his honor at the complex’s grand opening celebration in March 2009.
Sustainability, security and ease of use played a major role when considering the initial design of the complex. Tennis enthusiasts requested a court surface that provided good traction and also dried easily when exposed to natural elements, while staff members wanted wider courts and a surface that needed minimal upkeep and repair. The department eventually decided on a Plexipave surface, of medium coarseness, to provide superior traction and cushioning and a permeable surface to eliminate most moisture issues. The all-weather, brilliantly colored surface is known to resist sun damage, and provides outstanding playability for up to seven years between resurfacing–a significant feature when considering dwindling department funds.
Safe And Secure
In recent years, Salisbury, as with many other communities, has seen a rise in vandalism to court surfaces from motorized recreational vehicles, skateboards and hard-to-remove graffiti. It became clear early on that the complex would need multiple security measures to limit further damage. After much research and discussion, the department decided to install security fencing, lighting that functioned on an automated timer system and a security keycard system.
A 10-foot-tall chain-link fence was installed around the perimeter of the six-court complex to provide security, as well as to prevent tennis balls from flying over a shorter fence. Stadium lighting was installed throughout the complex and set to an automated timer that functions in evening sunsets and low-light conditions. The system can be adjusted by authorized facility users when lighting conditions change.
The keycard system at each court entrance is linked to the adjacent recreation center. Keycard access, similar to that of a library-card system, opens and closes magnetized gates when the card is swiped. The system keeps a record of who is using the courts and when facility traffic is the heaviest. Data collected from the keycards are used in department evaluations for national accreditation purposes and when seeking additional funding. The system also allows access to the complex from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week, a significant increase in time available. Tennis players, who plan to use the new courts, fill out a minimal amount of paperwork prior to receiving an activated keycard. For city residents, there is no charge for a card. Non-residents pay a one-time fee of $5. There is also a $5 charge for replacement cards. Registration is effective for the life of the card.
The Salisbury Parks and Recreation and Kiwanis Junior Open, a United States Tennis Association (USTA)-sanctioned tournament, is held at the complex each June. It includes junior singles and doubles tennis for boys and girls. The tournament saw an increase in participant registration during its first year at the new complex, and numbers are expected to increase steadily in subsequent years. Partnership with the local Kiwanis and a growing relationship with the Rotary Club have led to increased tennis opportunities for youth, including low-cost tennis lessons, competitive training courses, tennis clinics and skills camps.
Staff members are hopeful that these strong partnerships, which also receive overwhelming support from club volunteers, will help the department attract additional USTA tournaments. Increased spacing between court sidelines and court fences now provide 12-foot outside dimensions, preferred for USTA-sanctioned events. This, along with other state-of-the-art features, provides the needed ammunition for recruiting tennis tournaments.
The City Park Tennis Complex, well over 50 years in the making, has added new life to Salisbury’s oldest park site, and is an exceptional addition to outdoor recreation in the community.
Elaney Hasselmann is the Marketing and Community Relations Manager for Salisbury Parks and Recreation. A Michigan native, she relocated to Salisbury with her husband in 2007 and is an active member of many community organizations, and strongly supports environmental sustainability efforts nationwide. She can be reached at email@example.com.