Editorial: Tennis needs fresh thinking

The good folks in the Whidbey Island Tennis Association need a new approach in their effort to build an indoor tennis facility for North Whidbey Island.

Although working with an endowment of more than $1 million, WITA has failed to obtain a public partner, having already struck out with the city of Oak Harbor, the park and recreation district and the school district. The organization has now turned to Island County.

As proposed, the tennis association would purchase the property and construct the building, then turn it over to the county, which would lease it back to WITA to operate.

Maintenance and operation are, of course, the sticking points. If tennis activity couldn’t generate enough revenue, the county could be left holding the bag. No public body wants to commit to something that could be a money loser for taxpayers. Figures provided by WITA suggest the endeavor could break even, but those are only good-faith guesses.

An indoor tennis facility would be a tremendous addition to the recreation scene on North Whidbey. Tennis is a great sport for all ages, from very young to very old, and the high school tennis programs would benefit greatly with an indoor practice area.

But there’s no reason to think the Island County commissioners will reach a different conclusion than the other elective bodies that have already been approached. Perhaps it is time for WITA to start working with other groups and athletic organizations toward an indoor sports arena, operated privately on a non-profit basis. With so much money on hand, the tennis association should be able to leverage that cash into a widely based community betterment project.

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