Neighbors serve up concerns in heated tennis court proposal meeting

Students and neighbors had a heated meeting in the Brady Educational Center auditorium Tuesday night to voice concerns and discuss St. Thomas’ tennis court proposal.

“Finally show the neighborhood that you [St. Thomas] do care,” one neighbor said during the meeting.

The proposal includes six tennis courts behind BEC on the corner of Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue. The project would cost an estimated $800,000 dollars, and construction would start no earlier than this coming summer.

The meeting is part of the planning process, said Doug Hennes, vice president for university relations.

“We have not made a decision yet,” he said. “We are considering whether or not to do it. Part of the process is to present the plan to the community.”

The meeting attendees were mostly against the proposal, Hennes said.

“There were 100 people in the audience and I would bet 80 of them are against having the courts,” he said. “It’s what I expected based on e-mails and phone calls I’ve received in the last three weeks.”

The university looked at different areas on campus to add tennis courts, including the top of the Anderson parking ramp, Hennes said in the meeting. He said the area behind BEC is the best option because it involves less grading, needs no retaining walls, and loses the fewest trees.

There would be a 10-foot-high, chain-link fence with a windscreen around the courts during the tennis season. There would be no lights except for those on the walking paths in the area. There would also be a storage shed that would be lit from inside and an infiltration pond to collect runoff from the courts.

Hennes said the university was “very careful to make sure we observe all the zoning issues.”

A place to practice

The only place on campus to play tennis is in the field house of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. Currently, St. Thomas is the only school in the MIAC without on-campus regulation tennis courts, which means the team has to look somewhere else to practice.

(Courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)
(Courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)

“The courts at the field house give us a good place to practice in the winter months,” said assistant tennis coach Jono Martin. “But as far as playing matches there, it is not an actual tennis surface, it’s a multipurpose surface.”

In the past, St. Thomas has been able to use the tennis courts at St. Kate’s, but it would be easier to have courts on campus, said assistant tennis coach Drew Carlson.

“In the spring, if St. Kate’s is having an away match, we have been able to play there once or twice,” Carlson said. “But scheduling conflicts are always the issue.”

Along with scheduling conflicts, there are also the fees that come with renting tennis courts.

“We go to Baseline and we have to pay $25 a court for an hour,” said Martin.

Some neighbors suggested reducing the number of courts to save green space. But to host an NCAA-sanctioned match, six playing courts are required.

Neighbors voice concerns, sign petition

St. Thomas neighbors’ biggest concern was losing the green space behind BEC and its effect on the environment.

“I don’t see how St. Thomas, if they really have made a bid for sustainability, is taking that into action [with this project],” local resident LeAnn Taylor said.

The question the audience kept asking was, “Will you please reconsider building the tennis courts?” Adults were not the only concerned neighbors. Children also voiced concerns about what taking out trees would do to the animals of the area, especially the squirrels.

“I understand there is a tennis team, that takes a few months of the year,” one audience member said. “The green space is year round.”

The community also voiced concerns about parking on Goodrich Avenue. The complaint was that permit parking has already had to be enforced in some areas, to which Hennes said, “We would encourage people to walk.”

Another community member said she started a petition and collected 90 signatures before the meeting to stop the building of the tennis courts, and she intended to have more signatures by the end of the night.

The petition has no weight in the final decision, Hennes said.

“Legally, we (St. Thomas) are within our rights to develop the property as long as we observe the zoning code issues,” he said. “It’s a political statement.”

St. Thomas is still deciding whether or not to move forward with plans.

“We’ll have some internal discussions at the president staff level and decide what we are going to do,” Hennes said. “I am sure we will take it up with our trustees when they meet in February and make a decision on whether or not we are going to move forward.”

Colleen Schreier can be reached at

23 Replies to “Neighbors serve up concerns in heated tennis court proposal meeting”

  1. R.W. Emerson said society is, “A masked ball, where everyone hides his real character, and reveals it by hiding. Well, the character of a few neighbors came out of hiding at this meeting. Rude, mean spirited, and oppressive come to mind. A few seem to be against anything St. Thomas wants to do with it’s land. These neighbors wish to loiter around the edges of St. Thomas ……….walking dogs, running, ..filled with self interest.on St.Thomas land. One knows to love one’s neighbor, but some do all they can to make us disobedient. We had over a hundred members of the neighborhood as members of our St. Thomas Tennis Club. There are over another hundred tennis playing students,staff and faculty at St.Thomas not to mention P.E Classes. These courts would be used from April into October by so many in our community. One hopes that the few negative neighbors can get to something greater than themselves.

  2. Ah, I see good ole UST is at war with her neighbors again. Based on the amount of persons we ticked off before while I was a student at UST, I doubt the people who live near our beloved campus will let the authorities get away with any further construction. And oh yeah, students that live in the area, better start being on your best behavior.

  3. UST would never want to interrupt a leaf catching contest for the sake of NCAA tennis matches. Really, I listen to this video and I wonder what part of these arguements should be remotely sufficient for telling UST what do with ITS OWN property when they require no need to host this meeting at all. News flash everybody, UST is full of talented people. It gets more prestigious with every passing year given its succuss and the constantly improving looks of its campus. UST is growing because it is successful. You can’t condemn a successful college for growing any more than you can condemn a noble business that grows. In terms of the enviornment can any of these points begin to hold water? More trees in the ground is the biproduct of this project not less. And as stated in the presentation yesterday about 20 trees are barely alive as it is. Who in their life has ever heard of contaminated drinking water as a result of tennis courts?! We are talking about tennis courts not factory, though that could be arranged as pointed out by the bright young man in this video.

  4. When you visit the St. Thomas campus you are probably struck first by the beautiful coordinated architecture of the buildings.The next thing you see is the wide open green spaces punctuated by mature trees and crisscrossed by sidewalks. You cannot deny the beauty and utility of the quads. Unfortunately,with the appearance of the AARC and student center, green space is quickly dwindling on campus. The last unspoiled bastion of nature on campus is that space behind BEC and I would be wroth to be rid of it for 6 tennis courts. I play frisbee there in the afternoons with my friends. I see children playing there in the summer. I see footprints, paw prints, snow angels and snowmen left there by students in the winter. I see students and community members lounging, walking, talking, playing and running in that space. Don’t get me wrong I like tennis. I even took lessons when I was younger. But, can we honestly say the space is better used when it can no longer be shared with everyone? Is having 6 tennis courts worth $800,000? You know, you could grant more than 20 students the opportunity to attend UST for that amount. Tennis courts versus a students education? I hope UST makes the right choice.

  5. The neighbors’ complaints, if this article is correct, seem overwrought. And, I must confess, even as a sympathizer with the neighbors, their shrill objections to every proposed development at UST has begun to grate.

    Still… *I* love the area behind BEC, too. I understand the needs of the tennis team, but I would really hate to erect *six* courts back there.

    Plus, if we spend a million dollars on tennis, we won’t have the million dollars we need to build a skyway / tunnel from OWS/OSS across Summit/Cleveland into the new student center. And that should be UST’s highest construction priority, I think. :P

  6. I am no more in favor of tennis courts than some of these neighbors.  But, the arguments raised by the neighbors frankly hold no water.  Yes, this is their neighborhood.  However, this is also St. Thomas’ neighborhood and St. Thomas owns the land they want to develop.  If a neighbor wants to put up a fence on their own property, they can do so.  If St. Thomas wants to build something on their property, they can do so.  This is not an environmental issue, this is not a health issue.  There are multiple remarks about how St. Thomas keeps getting bigger.  I’ve got news…it’s a growing university, and it keeps expanding on land that IT OWNS.  St. Thomas is probably the largest employer in the area and one of the largest sources of money into the local economy (via students).  I’m not usually on this side, but in this case, the neighbor’s complaints are mostly just that…complaints.  St. Thomas has the right and should do whatever they want with this space.

  7. Saint Thomas clearly needs to put its priorities in order.  Why are we looking at spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on tennis courts, when what we really need is to build teleporters linking North and South Campus.

  8. Dear St. Thomas,
    In case you forgot, you are still an educational institution. As such, your first obligation should be to the students. Eg. providing… an education. Dare I say- maybe spending money on making education affordable? Or perhaps, maybe using that money to maintain the current facilities you have? If you would like, I could provide a laundry list of problems that money should go to fix- all that would probably be better received by the student body than a couple of tennis courts.(no disrespect to the Tennis team; the courts should have been built in the AARC already) Of course, since St. Thomas is a private institution, you can say “my way or the highway” and get away with it. See, growth is great, and it no doubt helps increase enrollment to see a huge campus with nice facilities. However, development is better. For example, if your classrooms don’t work, the answer is not to build more classrooms that don’t work, but to fix the current classrooms. You just spent $52 million dollars on the Anderson complex like it was burning a hole in your collective pockets, and now you’re telling the students that you didn’t have the foresight to build tennis courts in it and thus have to spend God knows how many million more? So much for fiscal responsibility I guess…

  9. Unfortunately, I could not attend the meeting on tuesday. 
    Regardless of where these courts are built, it is not apparent to me that the University needs them. The main motivation for this project seems to be that other schools in the MIAC have similar facilities. It amazes me that the University accepts such reasoning, when any parent would immediately reject similar arguments from their 10 year old daughter who wants a pony. Even if we were to accept this reasoning as valid, it seems hypocritical that Saint Thomas would use this argument, considering they recently abolished their theater program. So we can share theaters with St. Kates, but not tennis courts? To quote Shakespeare, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” 
    Other motivating factors for the project (cost-saving, convenience) seem equally unfounded, not to mention the University could be accused of neglecting other aspects of the University, like improving quality of education. I realize that focusing on creating a lovely campus is more profitable for the University, but I don’t think profits should distract from the mission of the institution. 

  10. True, Paul.  Similar arguments regarding a 10 year old wanting a pony would not hold.  However, the university likes to “keep up with the Jones'”.  I am not necessarily saying that this is a top priority precept to follow, but it is a profitable precept.  Facilities and the grounds are a huge part of attracting high school seniors.  Without profit, the university cannot accomplish its mission.  I believe the question is would the benefits (or profit) of St. Thomas having its own tennis courts outweigh the disadvantages?

  11. As pointed out in the first comment, hundreds of people would be using the courts. Doesn’t this trump a few dog walkers (Why is your dog pooping on UST land?) and fans of phosphorus soaked lawns (run off). Not to mention the top students St.Thomas has on the Tennis Teams each year. I see where they win Academic Excellence Awards each year (over 3.20) and two Academic All Americans in the past ten years. That’s 24-30 top studends UST might lose each year just from the tennis teams. Shakespeare is always good for a one liner, but he most likely didn’t know anything about; the University of St. Thomas, prospective students, tennis courts, MIAC and NCAA. The tennis courts would be a huge benefit that would give back to UST each year. Getting five hundred signatures for the tennis courts from studends, community, and staff would be easy. I will do that, but it really doesn’t apply to the final verdict. Safety and Security should be handing out trespass tickets to these dog walkers. Paul, Why don’t you share your garage with your neighbor.

  12. Hmm… I wish I would have thought to use that expression (“keeping  up with the jones”) as it was the idea I was trying to elude to with my pony comment; the point being that such an attitude is unacceptable in the (supposedly) environmentally aware society that we like in. 

    Also, I don’t like consequential speculation and should be working on my homework. I’d like to talk to you more about this later if you’re available. 

  13. St. Thomas should be able to build tennis courts on St.Thomas land. We are talking tennis courts and not some dump site. Tennis courts are at most Parks and Colleges. It’s really funny that anyone would whine about this. This would be great for all to use. St. Thomas might put in another parking lot, in this tennis court space, and they have a right to. Yes, To the new St.Thomas Tennis Courts

  14. I am so excited for the newly proposed UST tennis courts! What an asset to both the university and the community. (Can’t wait to play on them.) I commend St.Thomas for being so considerate in its willingness to give neighbors an opportunity to voice their concerns. Despite the fact that this is private property, UST once again demonstrates that it holds the integrity of the neighborhood in high regard. Outstanding.

  15. It’s great that St. Thomas cares about what the community has to say. However, I do not buy any of the arguments presented in the video. Considering how concerned these community members are, I would have expected something more substantial than leaf catching contests, the opinion that St. Thomas is already big enough, contamination of the pristine Mississippi River, and the fact that this is their neighborhood.

    When these people want to use the newly constructed tennis courts, does St. Thomas tell them no? After all… this is their campus.

  16. Thank-you to all that were present at our save St. Thomas Tennis Courts today (Nov.6). Lending support were: five neighbors, three faculty members, two Attorneys, seven tennis alumni, and around twenty students. Something will be here in the future and tennis courts are needed.

  17. “But what about the squirrels…….? haha, that is a classic argument. How about the parents exploiting their children by bringing them to a meeting like that and more than likely telling them what to say. I am still waiting to hear a good argument against building the courts for both University and Community use. Many great life lessons can be learned from introducing America’s youth to sports and tennis is one of them. We are with you Terry. And I’m pretty sure Shakespeare was not a tennis player but if he was I bet he played for Macalester.

  18. I am a former player, so of course I am going to support the building of new courts. Firstly, St. Thomas owns the land, so they can do whatever they please with it. The community should feel happy the University is even hearing their comments. Secondly, the comments I heard from the community have no merit. It would be one thing if there were oil underneath that section, but squirrels. Please. Thirdly, $800,000 is a lot of money, no doubt. I can understand why people are saying UST can use that money in scholarships. They probably could. My response to that is this—Putting in new tennis courts adds to the aesthesis of the University. It’s just like investing in your home. I’m not saying a kid is going to go to UST because they have nice tennis courts…I am saying updating athletic facilities is important to a University and plays a part in establishing a campus culture and the overall look of the University, which can, in turn help enrollment.
    Even if you are not a sports fan, you should at least admit it plays a part in college culture. Additionally, it’s not like the tennis team is going to be the only people using this courts. Other people in the community will be using them as well. I remember the old Cretin Ave courts were always packed full of…

  19. full of people. So, in closing, this is not only just an investment into the University, it’s an investment into the community.

    I am 100% behind Terry and UST. Go Tommies!

    Sorry my message got cut off…

  20. As a member of the tennis team, I believe courts are a beneficial project for UST. I get the concern about losing the open land, but like one of the young men on the video said, in a few years, they could be having a meeting to discuss adding a building for classrooms, which would take away ALL outdoor land. UST wants to reach out to others, and through these courts, St. Thomas will gain a new part of the community, tennis players. Tennis is a lifelong sport, and by adding courts, community members, as well as UST students, could partake in this sport, developing a skill they can use forever. Tennis is important at St. Thomas; nearly 20-30 kids trying out every year for each team. When there are that many serious players, along with many recreational players, how can you not believe that the outdoor courts would not be getting use?

  21. Those children were misinformed.  Six tennis courts will have no impact on the ecological system of the area, much less the squirrels.  If the kids are concerned about the squirrels, they should stop feeding them.  That would have much more of an impact on their little furry lives. 

    More importantly, St. Thomas should consider the ramifications of adding tennis courts.  Tennis courts encourage exercise and can combat the “freshman fifteen.”  Not to mention, the athletes deserve it.  Tennis is a great sport and will serve the community in enjoyment, exercise, and a place for the squirrels to run.

  22. Both the article and many of the comments seem misinformed. There are courts on campus to practice on. They are in the AARC. The article both mentions this and then states the opposite. 

    “The only place on campus to play tennis is in the field house of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. Currently, St. Thomas is the only school in the MIAC without on-campus regulation tennis courts, which means the team has to look somewhere else to practice.”

    Those courts can’t be used for tournaments, but they can and are used for practice. They are usable all year. St. Thomas’ conspicuous consumption under the pretense of development would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing. The neighbors’ points are not that strong, but neither are St. Thomas’. When 800,000 dollars becomes available as a convenience budget we have to realize we are doing something wrong. That is all these tennis courts are. The argument about St. Thomas’ private property is also unnecessary; no one is saying St. Thomas can’t build courts, just that they shouldn’t. 

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