Students, neighbors hold ‘Celebrate the Green Space’ event on proposed tennis court site

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St. Thomas students and St. Paul neighbors met Sunday afternoon in the open space behind the Brady Educational Center, where the university is considering building tennis courts, as part of the Celebrate the Green Space event.

Participants signed letters and petitions and worked on art projects promoting saving the green space from tennis court development. Junior Meg Veitenheimer, who helped organize the event, said the event’s purpose was to spread awareness.

“A lot of the purpose is bringing people together for an issue that they care a lot about,” she said. “Community members, students, neighborhood kids all coming together to appreciate this area and what it serves for our community right now.”

The student event organizers said they hoped the event would create a positive dialogue with St. Paul community members as well as St. Thomas administration. Senior Meghan Durkin said she hopes the university will consider all factors before continuing with development plans.

“I think the green space is a wonderful place to keep on campus,” Durkin said. “I do enjoy tennis, but I like the open area here; and I think it’s important to keep places like this on campus especially when it’s the only one left. I also know it’s really important to the community members.”

Neighbor Flannery Delaney said she was pleased with both the St. Thomas community and neighborhood response.

“We were thrilled that the students were organizing something, so we all said that we’ve got to show up and that it’s so great that the students care enough to do something, because it felt like a real community issue,” Delaney said.

Neighbor Beth Brombach agreed.

“I have two college-age kids and I know they care about these sorts of things,” she said. “It was really fun to see that students were motivated to do something.”

Delaney and Brombach have collected about 160 signatures from neighbors living near St. Thomas who are against installing tennis courts in the open space.

“Everybody knows this space and has always appreciated it and loved it,” Delaney said. “And the river is really a community resource so I feel like St. Thomas has some obligation to the rest of the community [to protect it].”

Brombach shared a similar wish for green space protection.

“It’s a really important spot along the river road, and there aren’t really a lot of green spaces left like this,” she said. “So it was really sad for us to think it could be taken away; not only for the neighborhood but for the students as well.”

Voices wanting to be heard

Many students talked about visiting the green space to spend time with friends and family, play instruments and reflect. Students and community members talked about the importance of nature preservation and biodiversity.

Veitenheimer said her personal connection to the green space inspired her to take action upon hearing the possibility of tennis court installation.

“I just wanted our voices to be heard and for [the administration] to know that people care about it,” she said.

Senior Erin Hagen said she hopes this event will “teach students to respect not only this green space but all green spaces.”

Delaney said her children motivated her to take action against the green space development.

“My daughter was so upset about it and that was what really inspired me,” Delaney said. “I’m going to show her that if you get involved in something you can sometimes make a difference.”

Moving forward

St. Thomas students and St. Paul community members at the Celebrate the Green Space event said they hoped it would get the word out about the proposed tennis court site.

“I hope this raises some awareness on campus and sort of brings it more to the forefront of the university,” sophomore Sarah Beyer said.

Durkin said she hopes the event causes the administration to consider alternate locations for the tennis courts.

“I know there [are] different considerations, and it would be great if we could keep this space untouched,” she said.

Sophomore Katie Zillmer said she hopes the university administration will reconsider its priorities.

“I think a lot of times people don’t see past what’s happening right now, and so what we’re saying is that this green space has been here a long time, and it will be here for a long time,” Zillmer said. “And tennis courts only serve a much smaller population.”

Delaney said she is optimistic about how the administration has handled the issue and the initiative students have taken.

“We felt that the university was open and responsive to the concerns of the neighborhood,” Delaney said. “And the students too have been so receptive, it’s just great.”

Veitenheimer said she appreciated both student and neighbor support and hopes the Celebrate the Green Space event continues as an annual event, as it could be “a consistent way to bring together the community and St. Thomas students, so to build that community with one another.”

Rebecca Omastiak can be reached at

9 Replies to “Students, neighbors hold ‘Celebrate the Green Space’ event on proposed tennis court site”

  1. ………and students have collected over four hundred signatures (as of last week) in favor of this site for new tennis courts. I hope the Tennis Teams and Community hold a celebrate our St.Thomas Physical Education day at this site. These few people do not represent the St.Paul/St.Thomas Community. They are a very small group of neighbors and “arts/music” students here. This area almost never used. St. Thomas is land locked and space can not be wasted on a few neighbors walking dogs and kids fronting for parents wants. The “arts/music” students should worry more about even having a program in the future. Tennis courts would add to our campus for many reasons and many people. Most UST students and neighbors have never walked behind BEC.

  2. I think that holding and celebrating a “St. Thomas Physical Education Day” with the community is a wonderful idea. However, why don’t the UST Tennis teams, as well as the other UST sports teams, hold and celebrate it in our brand new, multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art Anderson Athletic and Recreation Center? The AARC has already forged connections with the community: holding youth swim meets and dance competitions, among other things. Yet we must realize that not all community members are involved or interested in athletics, and that is why the green space is important to the community. While I appreciate the contributions our UST sports teams make to our campus and I fully support their efforts, I think, however, it is important to recognize that the purpose of a university is not just to foster the physical/athletic development of its students. The purpose of a university is to provide an education for the whole person: mind, body and spirit. While this view of the university is largely forgotten and intentionally ignored by most of society, St. Thomas is one of the few universities that preserves this tradition (for the most part). It would be grievous indeed if UST were to “advance its athletics” at the expense of neglecting its mission of “advancing the common…

  3. Common Good is that hundreds of current (and future) staff, students and neighbors can use the tennis courts. The courts would help create an active park area on the campus. Not an area under used by a few dog walkers, music students and smokers.

  4. It is most definitely not an area used by only music students, dog walkers and smokers. I personally worked for the NYSP (National Youth Sports Program) that takes place on the St. Thomas campus every summer, and most camp activities end up taking place on the green space behind BEC, considering it is the only wide open space left on campus. It is also the only place that gives a chance for both neighbors and students to come together, providing a way to build community and to get to know each other so that respect and appreciation can be built, and understanding that the area surrounding St. Thomas is not only for partying but where people raise their children. To lose this place, when another proposed site on North campus has been approved, is saying that one group’s interests/opinions are more important than another; why can’t both sides win if possible? People come to picnic, read, play frisbee and workout down by the river-I am personally horrible at both art and music and still love the space. The group that cares is as diverse as any, and to generalize is just wrong. A grassy space to filter water before it reaches the river is also important environmentally, and people connect to this area in many different ways.

  5. The activities you speak of, NYSP, is a summer activity. When the Tennis courts were on the south campus, tennis was a big part of the NYSP program. Not just a gathering place for some of the kids. They learned a life long activity on the tennis courts. There are lots of green space/parks that kids can play, buy not to many free instructional sports programs. The “A grassy space to filter water before it reaches the river”, is a real reach :<). The group that uses the Tennis Courts is large and diverse. One can even take a Tennis class for credit.

  6. TJ – why are you trying to minimize the importance of the people that use the green space now? You call them “a very small group of neighbors and ‘arts/music’ students” and “a few dog walkers, music students and smokers”. You make some good points in other areas, but I would hope you could recognize that other people do use that green space and they should not be dismissed as unimportant. Many of them represent the St. Thomas community. I am a staff member here and my child attends the Child Development Center. We are members of the St. Thomas community, no more or less important than you, the tennis team, or the other people that would use those courts. You mention “kids fronting for parents” and perhaps there are instances of this. Isn’t is equally possible that there are children that really love and use this green space? My son’s class uses this space several times a week and it serves as a large part of their physical activity. That space for play and exploration is important to him, his friends and teachers, and to me. I’m not saying don’t build tennis courts, I am asking that we evaluate all our options. I love the green space, my son loves the green space, please try to preserve it.

  7. Ms Schultze, Students pay to go to school here and use the land…do you or people from the neighborhood? And yes; you, your child and the self concerned neighbors are less important than the current/future students. Without them there is no University. At least the students know what you care about.

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