St. Thomas has proposed the construction of six tennis courts on the south campus at Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue, but some neighbors are worried about the potential loss of green space.
The university has planned to build new tennis courts since the old tennis courts were removed to make room for the south campus parking ramp, said Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations. But some St. Thomas neighbors have not reacted positively to the recent proposal, he added.
“It’s a sensitive and difficult issue,” Hennes said.
According to Hennes, a rumor circulating around the community is that St. Thomas isn’t allowed to build at the proposed site. Hennes denied that and said people were misinformed. St. Thomas and the community agreed about how far buildings could be from the road in 1995 when the retirement home for priests was built, Hennes said. He said some people were misled by this and believed that anything south of that area was off-limits to construction, which was not true.
Scott Banas, West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee co-chair, said neighbors are concerned about losing the open space.
“They enjoy and appreciate the green space in the area,” Banas said. “They certainly utilize that space in activities with their children. The space adds a spot of natural neighborhood, which is becoming more and more scarce because of the high commercialized and high traffic area on campus.”
“I think that the neighbors feel a sense of loss and worry about all the construction,” he said.
Banas believes the courts could be a positive addition if they will be available for neighborhood use. The university has proposed a tennis club could be held on the courts, and neighbors could join the club.
St. Thomas men’s and women’s tennis coach Terry Peck said he feels differently about the proposal.
“It’s very important for our tennis teams to have tennis courts,” Peck said. “As of now, we don’t have any home tennis matches.”
Peck also said that St. Thomas is the only school in the MIAC without outdoor tennis courts. Peck said the courts would benefit not only the tennis program, but the whole St. Thomas community.
Peck said the courts would also be a green use of the space behind the Brady Educational Center, similar to a bike trail. He said he does not understand the fuss that St. Thomas’ neighbors are making.
“I think opponents might be taking a very narrow view without looking at the big picture,” Peck said. “When we had tennis courts, they were used by the entire community.”
A final decision will not be made until spring on whether the courts will be constructed and when construction will start. The WSNAC Campus Development Subcommittee will review the proposal Tuesday, Nov. 2, in the BEC auditorium. Neighbors are invited to attend and give their input.
Ariel Kendall, Ashley Stewart, Nathan Spencer, Zach Pagano, and Ryan Shaver contributed to this article.
Gina Dolski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.