Sound Off: Indoor tennis facility needed

By David Weisbrod, Clark Donnell, Barney Beeksma

In the last 10 years, at least two surveys were completed to evaluate overall tennis interest on Whidbey Island. The results revealed that more than 4,000 residents of Whidbey would be interested in playing tennis at some level year round, if indoor tennis courts were available. Interest level varied from occasional recreational tennis to frequent or weekly tennis. Nearly 200 expressed interest in playing frequent and competitive tennis. As of this writing, nearly 400 Whidbey residents are active members in three Whidbey-wide organizations (community clubs), not counting varsity and junior varsity tennis teams at Whidbey’s three high schools.

Presently, Oak Harbor has almost 20 percent greater population than 10 years ago but fewer tennis courts than 10 years ago. Four years ago, a fairly new organization, Whidbey Island Tennis Association (WITA), drafted a plan for an indoor tennis facility. It would be a cooperative enterprise designed and led by WITA on land owned by — and offered by — Oak Harbor School District. After in-depth studies on topics such as tax-exempt status, safety, insurance, public access and lots of discussion, WITA proposed that this facility would best be operated under the management and control of North Whidbey Parks & Rec District (NWPRD). NWPRD’s main activity, John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, is now 50 percent supported by tax monies — voted in with year 2000 Levy (which ends in 2005). The proposed indoor tennis facility would cost about $1.5 Million, and would be totally self-sustaining; i.e., no tax monies, no monies from the Vanderzicht operation, no monies from the park district.

In April 2004, the NWPRD commissioners turned down a resolution that would allow the proposed indoor tennis facility to operate under the Park District. Of the five commissioners voting, Commissioner Sabalausky abstained, Commissioners Henninger and Lillquist voted in favor, and Commissioners Prosser and Johnson voted against. Under the written bylaws of the district, the resolution required the votes of four of five commissioners. For details, interested readers are referred to the following editions of the Whidbey News Times: (1) 4/24/2004: a report on the April/2004 meeting by Kevin Endejan; (2) 7/23/2004: An editorial recommending support for the Tennis Facility; (3) 7/28/2004 article by Eric Berto on how ‘infighting’ at the NWPRD slows the process (of progress).

The next meeting of the NWPRD board will be Tuesday, April 19. The proposal will again be put to a vote by the five commissioners. We urge the commissioners to recognize the needs and desires of the tennis population.

Whidbey Island resident-players from ages 10 to 85 want this indoor tennis facility. School district tennis athletes want this indoor tennis facility.

The authors of this letter are attempting to speak for this community. We urge the commissioners to recognize and accept the needs of the tennis players in the community.

The indoor tennis facility proposed by WITA will be located in Oak Harbor on land now owned by Oak Harbor School District, next to the Chamber of Commerce. WITA’s plan is for this facility to be a self-sustaining enterprise of the North Whidbey Parks & Recreation District. The facility will be funded by - and operate on - its own revenues. All funding, plans and designs are now available to construct the facility, and begin operations in 10 to 12 months. No monies are required from NWPRD, or any government agency of Oak Harbor or Island County.

WITA’s plan is for a tennis professional to direct the facility and operations. That director will be hired by, and report to, the NWPRD Board. Operations will be executed by a cadre/team of volunteers led and managed by the director.

We need residents and tennis players of North Whidbey to ask the NWPRD Board of Commissioners to avoid further delays, and get this proposal approved, because this facility is greatly needed.

All tennis players and readers of this newspaper are encouraged to write letters of support to the board, and/or to the editors of this newspaper: North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, 85 SE Jerome St., Oak Harbor WA 98277.

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