EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 8, 2013

$400K needed for tennis court work

By Dustin Luca

---- — ANDOVER — The tennis courts at Andover High School are crisscrossed with cracks and dotted with other bumps and bruises.

“Right now, you just don’t see them being used that much, aside from the teams, for the obvious — they’re beat up,” said Brian Frykenberg of the Friends of Andover Tennis. “There are a couple of courts not used even for match play, which puts (local teams) in jeopardy for being disqualified from Merrimack conference play.”

Annual Town Meeting will be asked to raises up to $400,000 to resurface the seven tennis courts built 24 years ago.

Today, the courts are covered in snow, but when they are used during the spring, summer and fall months, cracks and small dips — “duck ponds” — can cause bouncing tennis balls to take bad hops, or worse, according to Frykenberg.

“Any sport where you’re concentrating very hard, you’re not thinking about what to avoid,” he said. “You could catch your foot not just on a crack, but on the mere fact that there are little duck ponds.”

Some who use the courts have also said that there is a form of home-court advantage at the high school tennis courts.

“I remember talking to the girl’s team members. They said there’s a lucky side, and an unlucky side,” Frykenberg said. “You’re serving downhill if you’re serving from north to south.”

The courts aren’t the only ones owned and maintained by the town. There are a few other ones available at Pomps Pond, Frykenberg said, but the courts at the high school are needed to maintain and, in the future, expand town tennis programming.

The work, if approved at Town Meeting, would tear up the old asphalt surfaces beginning the week after school releases for summer vacation, according to Frykenberg.

The courts would also be redesigned and have less space around them, reducing the overall size the entire facility would take up adjacent to the high school’s student parking area, he said.

If started this summer, the courts would be ready for use by the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, Frykenberg said.

The group has been calling for a replacement of the courts for the several years.

When originally presented, the project was slated to cost around $200,000 — with the Friends of Andover Tennis raising half of the money and asking the town for a matching contribution, as reported in 2011.

Today, the Friends are able to commit $40,000 raised by them over the last few years to the cause, with the Town Meeting request aimed at funding the rest of the project.

“It was $200,000. The price has gone up,” Frykenberg said. “Three years ago, we were very optimistic that we could raise similar to the football boosters.”

“What we’ve gotten is $40,000, and we’re happy. So we’ve adjusted our number and said, ‘okay, we’re going to give whatever we can,’” he said.

The true cost of the project is $340,000, with an additional contingency cash reserve bringing the price up to $400,000, according to Frykenberg.

Grant opportunities could also lower the town’s obligation for the cost prior to Annual Town Meeting, he said.

If Town Meeting rejects the plan, Frykenberg said the group is prepared to finance short-term repairs, but the goal would be to “have a brainstorming session to see how we’d get [the project] on the agenda for the next year. I don’t see how the courts could be used if they’re not fixed.”