july 08 tahoe mt. news
By Kathryn Reed
Winter sports may get the bulk of the ink around these parts, but drive by the few tennis courts that exist on the South Shore and its evident this racket sport is thriving.
The problem is the lack of public courts. New this year is public access to the six courts at South Tahoe High School. For as long as most people can remember they have been locked unless being used by the high school teams or Tahoe Tennis Academy.
The academy, now in its 11th year, was started by Pat Fagen. Justin Clark is the pro teaching the kids. About 100 youths of all ability levels participate each summer. All classes are Monday-Thursday from 10am to 4pm.
This means the courts are open to the public when not being used by the academy. According to LTUSD Superintendent Jim Tarwater, the academy must post its hours on the courts so the public knows when it can play.
Fagen said he pays the district $50 per academy student. The district and academy share the expense of resurfacing the courts about every three years.
Four other district courts are open to the public at South Tahoe Middle School. Those were resurfaced in the last couple of years.
“My dream would be to have covered tennis courts,” Tarwater said.
The only indoor tennis court on the South Shore is at Ridge Tahoe. To play on it a person has to own a timeshare there or be a guest.
South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Ted Long has bandied about the idea of an indoor tennis facility for a number of years. Although he isn’t much of a player, his wife and daughter wield a pretty mean racket.
“We have two possibilities we are working on,” Long said. “I’m hoping by (sometime this month) that we will be able to make a decision and get some real numbers together.”
The more expensive alternative he proposes, and the one he prefers, is to relocate the city’s corporate yard by the recreation center to the industrial park area.
“We could take that property and build a new facility that would house indoor courts,” Long said.
He said he has about $200,000 in private money to build indoor courts. He realizes that may be a drop in the bucket for what is actually needed. He envisions four to six courts being built there.
“For me it’s like the ice rink. No one anticipated the amount of hockey we would have. I think the same thing would happen in winter with tennis players,” Long said. “My idea is to develop a membership program for locals so they could get a good deal like at the swimming pool and ice rink.”
The other location Long is entertaining is on school district property. Two old, dilapidated courts near the ball fields are not being used for tennis.
Tarwater said the district has some coverage issues to take care of with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency before that area could be considered. A decision is expected soon regarding the artificial turf field at the STMS track. As it stands now it is coverage. If the edict is not changed, LTUSD would remove the old concrete to keep the turf.
Coverage is bound to always be an issue because one court is 7,200-square-feet.
Long thinks four indoor courts would work at that the school site.
“It expands our recreation capacity,” Long said. “We have a golf course, we have a dog park, disc golf, swimming and now we would have tennis.”
Douglas County Parks & Recreation Director Scott Morgan said it’s possible as the county reworks what it is doing with various facilities at the Lake that indoor courts could be part of the discussion.
Fagen spearheaded efforts for indoor courts at Lake Tahoe Community College.
“One of our main goals as a tennis academy is to either put together public or private indoor and outdoor courts,” Fagen said. “The way I see it now, we need to raise about $3 million to buy the land. I think there is a lot of growth potential for tennis in town and this area.”
The U.S. Tennis Association has grants South Tahoe may qualify for.
Cynthea Preston, dean of instruction at LTCC, remembers Fagen approaching the institution but the topic faded away.
“We had some land we were going to use for that,” Preston said of the proposed tennis facility. “It wasn’t something the college had money for. We certainly do have land and tennis courts are in our master plan.”
Tennis is no longer offered as a college class. Classes have been conducted at Tahoe Paradise, Lakeland Village and Zephyr Cove. Preston said part of the problem is the lack of courts.
Kyle Horvath was the last college tennis instructor. He is the head pro at Zephyr Cove, which has six lighted courts. He leases the courts from Douglas County.
He said the off court time required by LTCC got to be too much for him. It was hard to make meetings, his grades were late and the distance from the courts to the campus played a significant role. Now he teaches basically the same classes he did at the college, but the money goes to him.
The membership fees which range from $45 to $60 for the May 1 to Oct. 31 season go directly to the park for maintenance and upkeep. Horvath makes his money through lessons, clinics and tournaments.
Horvath is also one of the few people in town who strings racquets.
Courts around town
Douglas County used to operate two courts on Douglas County School District land. They were closed off two years ago because huge sink holes formed from the fill that was used when they were first created.
Those courts are going to be excavated so the school district can resolve some of its coverage issues as it erects a new gym at Whittell High.
At the opposite end of the South Shore, Tahoe Paradise’s courts look like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
“The courts are not in tip top shape. They are in pretty bad shape,” Tahoe Paradise park manager Steve Dunn said.
Only two of the three courts are playable. It costs $5 for two people to play for an hour. Dunn said the park receives about $50,000 a year from Measure S bond money that goes for maintenance for the entire 58-acre park that sits near the Truckee River.
Tahoe Keys has seven courts scattered throughout the development. The catch is you must be a homeowner or staying in the Keys to play. The group of four courts on Ala Wai Boulevard was closed off much of last year for repairs.
Ed Morrow, general manager of Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association, said they should be ready for play sometime this summer.
“We have quite a large tennis community,” Morrow said. The nets on the Venice Drive courts were up in early April. “To my knowledge there has been no suggestion of an (indoor) bubble. If we had enough interest in it, that would be a board decision.”
A couple roots are coming up on the court near the Lake.
“It will probably be open before the repairs are done because it’s not that serious,” Morrow said. “Snow is hard on tennis courts.”
Other courts around the area are also limited to guests – like at Lakeland Village and MontBleu. Others are at private residences.