If a project to build new tennis courts at Centennial Park stays on track, groundbreaking is expected to commence in September and be completed by spring of 2015. The project comes after numerous meetings with the Plymouth Park Board, Blueberry Festival liaisons, Hoosier Old Wheels representatives, and Freedom Park Committee.
According to Sarah Guild Smith, one of the members of the Tennis Committee spearheading the project, bids requests are going out for the project that, when completed, will hold ten full-sized lighted courts with a central walkway; four short courts for programming for both seniors and youth tournaments; a pavilion with restrooms, storage, and a shelter.
The Blueberry Festival Board requested that Freyman Shelter be relocated in connection with the project.
The site plan for the new courts is on the north side of Becknell Drive. Currently the courts are located on the south side. Smith said, “There is a net zero change in the space available and will only mean flip-flopping the sites.”
In January or February, 2011, the committee was given permission by the Park Board to begin exploring the possibility of creating an updated facility. In December, 2012, the Park Board selected the site. During a Park Board meeting, Park Superintendent Mike Hite said the setup for the annual car show sponsored by Hoosier Old Wheels could be rearranged.
The current tennis courts would be removed and the area returned to grass the first year after construction so as not to limit the amount of space needed for the car show and/or other Blueberry Festival related activities.
Committee members told the Park Board in January that they had considered several sites within the park. The current tennis courts are located in the new floodway, making it impossible to remove or rebuild with new construction. The basketball courts on the south side of Plymouth Goshen Trail were also considered. According to Smith, the site size was a bit restrictive and would require the removal of the chicken coup storage facility.
The existing tennis courts were built in 1973. Over the years there have been several major maintenance projects including those in 1986,1989,2002,2005, and 2011. Additionally, new lights were installed in 1988 and 1990.
The project is being funded through public and private donations and grants.
Smith and other committee members, Betsy Gee Biederstede and Dawn Edwards Everidge, appeared before the Plymouth Common Council in January of this year to explain the project and seek partial funding. The council voted unanimously to commit $750,000 towards the project; with the stipulation, however, that the pledged amount would not be appropriated until the remaining project budget was reached.
During the June 3, 2014 meeting of the Plymouth School Board, members voted unanimously to support the project. A resolution passed at the meeting includes setting aside $250,000 of the corporation’s Capital Projects Fund with the intent to contribute to the project. The set aside funds will be paid directly to the City of Plymouth through a lease agreement. However, the designated funds will not be released until there is an amendment to the current lease agreement to be negotiated with the City. Further, none of the funds will be paid until the City of Plymouth can demonstrate a final commitment to the construction of the new tennis courts. The schools have had a long-standing practice of leasing facilities within the park for use of PCSC (Plymouth Community School Corporation) students in competition events and physical education classes.
According to Smith, the committee had used a $1.7 million estimate in the early stages of the project, but changes to the project could mean a lower final cost.
Smith said, “This is an opportunity that comes along once every 50 years or so to have a Class A facility.” Citing 40 years of the existing courts working well for the community, Smith said, “It is a wonderful facility for fitness and tradition.”
The project came to the forefront again after it was reported that at an Argos School Board meeting Superintendent Russ Mikel said he had been approached by a Blueberry Festival Board member about the possibility of the festival being moved to Argos. Social media sites were flooded with comments from the community concerning a possible relocation and the tennis courts project. Among those posting comments was Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter. Senter quoted actor Bill Cosby saying, “I don’t know the secret to SUCCESS, but the secret to FAILURE is trying to please actor everyone.”
For further information, the Tennis Committee has set up a website at www.plymouthtenniscourts.com.
Carol Anders Correspondent