Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Andre Agassi, eat your heart out.

At times over the past three years it appeared as if the vision for a six-court tennis complex at Graham Park would whiz past Carroll like an Andy Roddick rifle serve.

But Carroll’s elected officials, Parks and Recreation director Jack Wardell and Kuemper Catholic High School-Carroll High School tennis coach Matt Greteman were patient.

They worked the project,  chased down side-spinning challenges, and in Agassi-like fashion, returned a baseline winner.

Carroll soon will have a six-court tennis complex on the site of the former parks maintenance building, infrastructure we lost to a fire.

Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann said the facility will benefit high school students, opening the doors for them, as well as serving as another amenity in the center of the community.

“I think it is a worthwhile investment into our young men and women,” Siemann said.

Yes, it is.

As it stands, the city has committed $230,000 to the project through local-option sales-tax revenue. The rest of the funding flows as follows: $30,000 from the city’s hotel-motel tax; $63,000 from the Carroll Community School District $10,000 from Kuemper Catholic High School; $48,000 from the United States Tennis Association; $33,276 from private grants and donations, many of them local; and $22,398 in interest.

The city remains in talks with Kuemper for potential additional funding, said City Manager Gerald Clausen. Kuemper already has pledged $5,000 a year for eight years to help with maintenance of the facility.

Much of the overall funding is tied to an asphalt courts, and plans for a six-court complex.

Mayor Adam Schweers said it makes sense to move forward with a six-court plan.

“We would be able to attract conference and district-style meets,” Schweers said. “We can’t do that with four courts.”

He’s right.

The complex provides enormous potential for Carroll as a tennis center, not just for high school events, but Iowa college tournaments as well. The courts will be nicely bundled with the Carroll Family Aquatic Center, Skate Park, Recreation Center and our baseball, softball and football stadiums — not to mention Graham Park itself, the runaway leader now in the Daily Times Herald’s online poll of “best park” in Carroll.

As Siemann noted, the city is close to the target. Greteman worked local businesses to raise the $33,276, and $48,000 from the United States Tennis Association is no small matter, either. Wardell, who knows his tennis, did admirable work on this project as well.

Both schools have major commitments.

Yes, there is a $140,405 shortfall in funding to get the tennis complex built (although we hear more money is coming from Kuemper to dent that).

The city is considering delaying by a year a $70,000 Carroll Rec Center gym-floor-replacement project and a $19,600 Rec Center ceiling project in order to help make up the ground for funding the tennis complex. If those numbers hold, the city would be looking at pulling $61,000 from the general fund to build the courts.

These are reasonable plans.

Something else to consider: most kids, no matter how much they practice, just won’t be able to play popular team sports at any college, or even at an exceptional or above-average high school level. Bigger, stronger and faster are the results largely of a genetic lottery.

Individual sports like tennis afford opportunities for a high level of play by kids who can make up through technique, smarts and devotion, what they didn’t inherit from mom and dad. What’s more, tennis is a lifelong pursuit, and the presence of the new complex will, as Councilman Tom Tait said, be a venue for adult recreation.

At the end of the day, there’s just too much collaboration on this project, too many invested stakeholders, to call a financial foot fault over the shortfall.

We are pleased to see the council poised to serve up a solution that brings a six-court tennis complex to Graham Park.

Game, set, match.

Winner: Carroll