St. Thomas announced Tuesday it has narrowed down two possible tennis court sites after reviewing 13 potential on-campus spaces.
The final sites are located behind Brady Educational Center along the Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue, and by Cleveland and Selby avenues behind Ireland Hall, where the tennis courts used to be before they moved to South Campus. The tennis courts were removed when the Anderson Parking Ramp was constructed in 2008.
“No decision has been made,” Doug Hennes, vice president of university relations, told about 30 neighbors who attended the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday.
Question of funding
“We still don’t have a timetable,” Hennes said. “The feeling from our finance committee is it is too early to tell how much money will be left over from the student center project to do the McCarthy renovations or the tennis courts or both. So we hope to decide this spring.”
The McCarthy Gym was renovated this past summer but has not been finished. Additional renovations include adding locker rooms for the soccer and softball teams.
“We simply don’t know yet,” Hennes said. “But the good thing we do know is that over the past few months … we looked at all the possible sites and narrowed it down to two sites on campus, if we decide we should have tennis courts on campus.”
Other options ruled out
The other sites considered were deemed unfeasible and expensive after further review, Hennes said.
Some newer sites the university looked into, such as the roof of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex, would be costly. Most of the mechanical equipment for the complex is on the roof, Hennes said, so it would have to be relocated.
Another option that involved removing Grand Avenue apartment buildings was ruled out.
“It wouldn’t make sense to get rid of eight residential areas,” Hennes said.
Hennes explained that many of these proposed sites could work with four courts, but the NCAA standard is for six courts. While the university looked at off-campus court options as well, Hennes said the university ultimately wants the courts to be close to campus for the tennis team and for “recreational use for faculty, staff, students, alumni and neighbors.”
Considerations with the Selby and Cleveland site
Hennes said there are “a lot of constraints” with this site, but it is “feasible.” However, the sand volleyball court would be lost and 43 parking spaces would be removed.
The John Paul II residence hall loading lot would have to be reconfigured, and Ireland Hall would lose its vehicle access. Hennes said this would restrict fire-lane access but added that it could be reconfigured.
A big concern involves city variance rules on how far buildings must be from property lines. These courts would be pushing the variance setbacks and would have to be reviewed by the city before being approved, Hennes said. For example, the baseball field’s fence runs close to the property line, so it is possible that the city would approve fencing close to the property line for tennis courts, he said.
There are some positive aspects to this site, Hennes said. The courts would be located on North Campus where a high percentage of on-campus students lives.
Neighbors still concerned about South Campus site
Neighbors have remained concerned about the possibility of putting tennis courts on the green space behind Brady Educational Center.
One neighbor at the meeting said she “applauds” St. Thomas for looking at other sites and explaining why certain sites would not work, but it was “poor planning” on the university’s part.
Hennes said the original site behind BEC would cost about $880,000, while the North Campus site would cost about $1.2 million to $1.4 million.
“If it costs more to do what’s right,” the neighbor said, “the university should buck up and pay extra.”
Another neighbor said the “aesthetic costs” should “really be considered.”
Another neighbor raised concerns that the sustainability committee has not been involved in the decision-making process, especially since the university has a climate action plan to become more sustainable.
Hennes answered the neighbors’ questions in a separate question-and-answer session, and one suggestion that came out of this was to split the tennis courts on North Campus. One neighbor suggested putting four courts behind Ireland and two in front of JPII. Hennes said the university will do further research on this arrangement.
Theresa Malloy can be reached at email@example.com.