University looks at other spots for courts, neighbors still concerned

Doug Hennes, vice president for university relations, said in a Tuesday night West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee meeting that the university is considering other locations for new tennis courts, in addition to the originally proposed site behind Brady Educational Center.

The additional sites include the following: the Anderson parking facility roof; a South Campus parking lot; the South Campus quad between Cretin Hall, Grace Hall and BEC; and the parking lot space behind St. John Vianney Seminary.

St. Thomas has not made any final decisions, Hennes said. Although he said the only “feasible” site the university has considered is the green space behind BEC, he also described some of the other options the university is considering.

parking ramp
The Anderson parking ramp (Gina Dolski/TommieMedia)

Other building options would mean loss of parking, restricted fire access

St. Thomas has considered building the tennis courts on top of the Anderson parking facility, but this would mean the new observatory would have to be removed, Hennes said.

The university is looking at putting tennis courts in Lot O, which is the parking lot on South Campus between Cretin and Grace residence halls, the McCarthy Gym and the Binz Refectory. With this option, St. Thomas would lose 175 parking spots, which could be replaced by another parking ramp, Hennes said.

lot o
Parking Lot O (Gina Dolski/TommieMedia)

The university is looking at two configurations of tennis courts in Lot O. The more feasible option would include two sets of three courts, but this option would run fencing close to the entrances of the South Campus buildings, Hennes said.

“The other problem with the site is doing that would restrict fire access to not only those buildings but the south end of the parking ramp,” Hennes said.

Utility tunnels could also be an issue, he said.

One idea that came out of last week’s meeting was to build a deck over Lot O with tennis courts to avoid losing parking space, Hennes said. 
But the site would still mean tight access to the buildings.

south campus quad
The South Campus quad (Gina Dolski/TommieMedia)

The university is also considering tennis courts on the quad space behind Grace and Cretin Halls, but the grotto entrances would have to be reconfigured.

The final possible site is behind St. John Vianney Seminary, where the tennis courts were in the 1970s. This configuration would cause issues with access to Ireland and John Paul II residence halls, a loss of 50 parking spaces and would push against property lines.

WSNAC members suggested other options, such as building tennis courts on two separate areas or on the roof of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex.

Lot A on North Campus (Gina Dolski/TommieMedia)

“I just ask people to keep an open mind in the process. … We’ll keep other options in mind as we look on and off campus,” Hennes said.

Neighbors felt “slammed”

More than 100 neighbors gathered at a WSNAC meeting Nov. 2 to express concerns about tennis courts.

“The meeting was informative and dramatic,” said Scott Banas, WSNAC co-chair and neighbor. He said he supports the neighbors’ opposition to the courts.

Some committee members, including Rachel Westermeyer, were frustrated that neighbors were not originally involved with the proposal.

“It suddenly got on the front burner,” Westermeyer said. “I think it would have been better had it gotten on the front burner with everybody all on the same page. We all kind of got slammed.”

WSNAC member Jeanne Matross said she thinks St. Thomas should respect the river.

“This is the Mississippi River, and it’s designated as a national park, and your land is opposite the national park,” she said. “So, in some respects, it’s like building a tennis court next to Yellowstone or something like that. … This designation means St. Thomas has ‘special responsibilities’ to preserve this national asset.”

WSNAC member Leo Viktora said St. Thomas had mentioned building tennis courts in previous years, but he said the neighbors were surprised by this year’s proposal.

“I am cautiously optimistic about a fruitful discussion moving forward,” Viktora said. “I appreciate that St. Thomas is going to look at other options now that they have looked at before.”

Hennes said he had planned to present the plans in November or December, but neighbors started calling and sending e-mails about rumors.

“I wanted to bring [the plans] to WSNAC first, but unfortunately it got out ahead,” he said. “I was doing rumor and damage control at that point.”

WSNAC resolved to talk more about St. Thomas’ future building plans on an annual basis at the beginning of the school year and then review progress in June.

Hennes said more information about the tennis courts would be announced at the next committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, in Murray-Herrick Center room 155.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at

6 Replies to “University looks at other spots for courts, neighbors still concerned”

  1. “Neighbors felt slammed”, what a joke! What could neighbors really feel slammed about? Maybe that their pets will have a few less places to crap. How are the neighbors emotions somehow tied up in what UST does inside its own property lines? It is not any different than if someone put a patio in their own yard. Then again no good neighbor would ever do that because it would somehow polute the river. Where does this Jeanne Matross get off calling the undeveloped area behind BEC a national park related to Yellowstone? On the grounds that they both have trees? Or how about that squirrels live in both places? That area is related to Yellowstone like a hockey rink at Groveland is to the Excel Energy Center. It humors me to hear these adults argue like 3rd graders, but UST should really start putting the court construction proposal in motion so that this matter can be put to rest. UST should not waste its time doing work it has already done by going over its other on-campus options again. If a location was not ideal before it won’t be now. UST has every right to build where it is the most convienent for itself due to the fact that it owns the land and is not violating any law or regulation.

  2. Slammed…….St. Thomas students at the meeting were the ones slammed. They were not expecting to meet with such rude and negative neighbors; neighbors with such intelligent thoughts about; squirrels, water pollution, and activities that are acceptable on St. Thomas land. The students that attended that meeting are some of the finest students St. Thomas has to offer. One is a two time class president, they have nine All Conference Awards between them and have over a collective 3.25 GPA. All have done volunteer work in the community. They left this meeting with a very negative opinion of the neighbors that attended. Their experience will spread thru the St. Thomas Community. St. Thomas needs outdoor tennis courts for it’s; Tennis Teams, PE classes, students, staff, faculty, and community. The Tennis Teams will have no home matches or outdoor practice courts. St. Thomas will be one of the few Div.III schools without outdoor courts in the Nation. Since we had as many as fifty St. Paul children playing tennis, at the old St.Thomas Tennis courts, there are more in the neighborhood wanting to play tennis than catch a leaf. This is the best spot for tennis courts on campus and would be a plus for the community. The number of top students St. Thomas would lose is to costly.

  3. I’d cut the neighbors a bit of slack on this. This is pretty typical whenever a neighborhood or community is confronted with a significant change that will affect them. I’ve been on both sides in these kinds of situations and the tendency for the threatened group is to pull out almost anything they can think of that could ultimately happen. It’s a lot like watching our congress debate issues. Try not to take it personal. You’ll likely be in a similar situation some day.

  4. It would be a foolish idea to build these courts on any parking lots.  Parking at UST is limited enough, and to reduce the amount of spaces available would be a huge mistake.

  5. John, I hope if I’m in this type of situation I would not take such a narrow and blind view of change. St. Thomas has cut slack to these neighbors, but it’s all one sided. These tennis courts would enhance the campus in so many ways.

  6. I hate to say it but the real fact is that St. Thomas has given nothing to the neighborhood beside parking issues, heavy traffic and headaches..
    The School’s rapid expansion and removal of taxable property from the tax rolls has resulted in higher property taxed for local residents who already pay some of the highest taxes in St. Paul.
    Your cost of on campus parking has gone up and the amount of space as was mentioned above has been limited even more with the new construction projects.
    Imagine if you would that you’ve invested a significant amount of your life and savings in a neighborhood. and the small house across the street becomes a high rise apartment building with insufficient parking.
    There are 12 children under the age of 10 that live within four houses of me either direction.
    Your students drive too fast up the street which severely limits the activities that we feel comfortable allowing the kids to do… I witness on a daily basis students driving in excess of 40 MPH on residential streets while texting or talking on the phone…
    I can assure you that our block and at least four others that are not currenlty permit only are switching to it, St. Thomas may want to reserve the space for future parking lots because the…

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