Park board rallies for tennis facility

If the Whidbey Island Tennis Association generates enough funds to construct an indoor tennis facility, the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District will run it.

Park commissioners, who voted 4-1 to accept a motion to operate the proposed facility at May’s monthly meeting, again made it clear at a board meeting Tuesday that they will operate the facility if it ever gets built.

“If they can construct this building, we definitely want to be involved in the operation of it,” board Chairwoman Janet Sabalausky said.

After a resolution from Commissioner Fred Henninger was initially turned down by the board in April, Commissioner Tom Johnson returned in May with a change in opinion. Johnson, one of the two to vote against the resolution in April, moved to “accept the responsibility to operate the proposed WITA tennis facility only if the district does not incur any tennis facility expenses.”

His initial concerns revolved around the Park District incurring expenses from the facility, but receiving no revenue.

The motion appeared fit enough for the majority, passing with a required 4-1 total. Only Commissioner Harvey Prosser remained opposed to the idea of operating a tennis facility.

During Tuesday’s meeting Henninger, also the Whidbey Island Tennis Association president, showed enthusiasm about the possibility of the Park District running a tennis facility.

“I’ve continued to talk to people who could purchase the thing outright,” he said.

The idea is to have the proposed $1.5 million tennis facility constructed on land leased from the Oak Harbor School District, located across the street from the old North Whidbey Middle School. It is anticipated to run on self-generated funds.

Although the school district has not fully committed to the idea, Superintendent Rick Schulte stated in a letter to Henninger that “the board believes this would be an asset to the community and to the students of Oak Harbor School District.” He followed by saying the school district is willing to work with North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District to negotiate a lease of the land needed for such a facility, but first he asked that WITA obtain the resources to undertake the design and construction.

The lease of the land would be minimal, according to Schulte, comparing it to the City of Oak Harbor’s agreement with Fort Nugent and Volunteer parks.

The sole responsibility for the Park District would be to run the facility, as the tennis group can’t because they are a non-profit organization.

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