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Brand New Tennis Courts Open in Sarasota

October 9, 2007 03:09 PM

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Tennis players and county commissioners came out to support the opening of three brand new tennis courts at Payne Park Tennis Center in Sarasota on Saturday, October 6.  The tennis court grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony piggy backed off the grand opening celebration of Payne Park, a beautiful 29-acre park, about 100 years in the making and one year in construction.  Hundreds of people celebrated the much anticipated park opening by enjoying free music, food, vendors, raffle prizes and activities such as kite flying, disc golf, arts and crafts, skateboarding, dancing, and tennis activities.

Excitement was at an all-time high during the grand opening of both the park and new tennis courts.  City and county officials exuded a sense of accomplishment when talking about the new facilities.

“It takes a lot of people to build a park like this,” said Duane Mountain, former park Project Manager.

Duane thanked the city, council members, contractors, architects, officials, sponsors and the citizens of Sarasota for their efforts in turning the dream of a beautiful city, family-oriented park into reality.  With a brand new park adjacent to Payne Park Tennis Center, families can plan a nice day outside - starting first with a fun game of tennis and ending with a nice stroll in the park.

The reality of having the city’s support in the construction of a rather large recreational undertaking like building a new park for $9 million, and having the county’s support to build three new clay tennis courts is rather special.  In lieu of budget cutbacks from the state legislature which has forced some cities to cut recreational programs and tennis facilities, it is great to see city and county commissioners and officials promote the importance of recreational programs and sport amenities.  The city of Sarasota can be proud of its capability to see past politics, and instead work in collaboration with each other for the betterment of its citizens. 

“The Payne Park tennis courts have been so popular that people asked for three more,” explained Millie Small, Chair of City Parks, Recreation and Environmental Board.  “It took the right people to put it together, and now look what we have!”

The right people Millie Small is referring to are the county commissioners, passionate tennis supporters and members of the park and recreation department in Sarasota County.  In order for the county to have the necessary funding to build more tennis courts, community members had to vote to keep paying a Penny Sales Tax first approved by voters in 1989 and renewed in 1997.  It is called a penny tax because it collects 1 cent per dollar on all taxable purchases.  Revenue from the surtax have been used to build or improve schools, roads, bridges, parks, libraries and for other projects to enhance the quality of life in Sarasota County.  Recently, that revenue was used to construct three brand new tennis courts for residents to enjoy.

A ribbon cutting ceremony officially opened the new tennis courts for use.  A tennis exhibition followed which included QuickStart tennis, Prince racquet demos, a clinic with a tennis pro and ball machine skill practice. 

John McCarthy, General Manager of Parks and Recreation for Sarasota County, explained the importance of continuing to grow recreational opportunities for people in the community.

“Expansion of the tennis courts was driven by demand,” said John.  “It is important to continually fill the gaps in recreation programs and provide a diversity of opportunities for people of all age groups to participate in and do.”

Tennis is a great example of a safe and healthy recreational program people can get exercise, yet still socialize at the same time.  Constant expansion of a sport like this is imperative.

Dan Olsen is Director of Tennis at Payne Park Tennis Center, which was named USTA Outstanding Tennis Facility in 1996.  He is thrilled with the expansion of the tennis center and looks forward to adding more tennis programs at the facility, including USTA Jr. Team Tennis, QuickStart and hopefully after-school tennis programs for students.  Now that there are12 courts total, Payne Park Tennis Center is ready to accommodate more players, and USTA Florida is ready to assist!  

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