Tennis advocate urges Tampa to save HCC tennis courts

08/23/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The majority of budget cuts Tampa officials are considering involve the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Those cuts, mandated by the state Legislature this year, originally included 28 tennis courts at Hillsborough Community College. However, after discussions between the city and the college, it was agreed that the courts would remain open until April.

However, the city may not be able to afford to continue paying for staff, maintenance and equipment after April.

Twenty years ago, the city of Tampa built the tennis courts on HCC property, then signed a 20-year agreement stipulating that the city would operate and maintain the courts. That agreement ends in March.

Karen Paulus, the parks director, told the Council that HCC is forming a five-year master plan, and the tennis courts might not be part of the plan.

Gary Shepherd is with the Hillsborough County Tennis Association, and is an official with the U.S. Tennis Association. He said tennis is growing at a prodigious rate. Shepherd quoted from a sporting goods association survey saying that participation in tennis has grown 10 percent this decade.

Shepherd says there are about 90,000 tennis players in Hillsborough County, and 25,000 in Tampa. He says if the HCC tennis complex is destroyed, it will have a negative impact on the city.

But Shepherd said he’d be interested in working with the city on private development creating more courts.

In a show of solidarity, City Councilman John Dingfelder said the City Council should write a letter to Hillsborough Community College officials on extending the life of the tennis courts past March.

Commissioner Thomas Scott also asked Paulus to report back in two weeks on the status of improving the quality of a number of other tennis courts in Tampa that are in dilapidated condition.

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