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Gregory Park tennis court upgrade aimed at helping fitness for a lifetime

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Tennis, a sport that can keep people active from children on though the golden years, could be getting a boost in north Brainerd.

The Gregory Park tennis courts are cracked and deteriorating with water puddling after rain events in little hollows on the court surface.

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Tony Sailer, Brainerd parks and recreation director, submitted grant applications to the United States Tennis Association (USTA). The goal is to upgrade the courts and make them more conducive to helping children be successful at tennis so they can develop and stay with the sport for a lifetime.

The city received two USTA grants for the project, one from the regional Northern USTA of $5,000 and one from the National USTA for $9,000.

When Meg Douglas, an avid tennis player, heard the city was seeking funds to upgrade the courts, she wanted to help.

“I just love being in the park,” said Meg Douglas, of Gregory Park. She contacted other friends and tennis enthusiasts, some play weekly at the park, others teach tennis or are involved with children or the seniors who use the courts in the north Brainerd park. Douglas sent letters and emails out to people she knew used the Gregory Park courts.

Soon the Brainerd Northside Neighborhood Association also expressed interest and dedicated funds to help the park.

As of Friday afternoon, the city’s parks and recreation department received $4,000 in donations.

Total cost of the project is expected to be $71,000. The city has park dedication funds for the project but is fundraising to help offset the cost.

Sailer said in addition to Douglas’ letter-writing campaign, the city is working with the Brainerd Jaycees Rubber Ducky race by selling raffle tickets. In addition, an effort is going into getting young people to sell the raffle tickets in the Gregory Park neighborhood. The Jaycees will give some of the proceeds for each ticket sold to the tennis court project.

The plans call for moving the two northern most tennis courts about 60 feet farther north. Sailer said there is an old sewer pipe under the current courts and the city doesn’t want heavy equipment potentially breaking the pipe.

By moving the courts, there will be more space for the hitting wall. And a new surface at the hitting area should make the wall more accessible. As it is now the rough ground surface makes it anyone’s guess where a ball may go once it returns from the wall. Hitting it back may not even be an option.

Improvements would raise the two northern most tennis courts and slope them to provide adequate drainage. The three courts to the south are already designed that way.

Sailer said if the city had to use only the park dedication funds, it would consume the resources for a single project and take a long time to replenish. By fundraising, the city would be able to tackle the tennis court improvements and still have resources for other projects.

Sailer said the parks department has worked with tennis instructor and coach Lisa Salo and others to plan more practices and clinics. The goal is to provide more opportunities to be active on the tennis courts.

“If everything falls into place, I would like to see construction begin this fall,” Sailer said.

Beyond just a new surface, youth courts also will be blended into the northern courts. Forestview Middle School in Baxter has blended courts. The smaller courts with lower net make it easier for children to learn tennis and be successful.

The USTA’s QuickStart courts are aimed at 10 and younger. The painted court markings convert 78-foot tennis courts into 36-foot and 60-foot tennis courts. Children 8 and younger typically play a court 36 feet by 18 feet while children 10 and younger may play on a court 60 feet by 21 feet.

The USTA launched QuickStart tennis in 2008.

In other Midwest cities, efforts have gone into creating the short courts, which have been popular not only for young people but also for active seniors and new players.

“Scaling tennis down to the size of children promotes greater participation and ensures that young kids can play tennis much more quickly,” said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive, Community Tennis, USTA, in a news release. “10 and Under Tennis is critical to the long-term growth of our sport, and ultimately will help us develop new generations of talented players.”

The Cook County Tennis Association in Grand Marais was one of the first facilities in USTA Northern to paint permanent QuickStart lines on three new courts.

People or organizations wishing to contribute to the Gregory Park tennis court project may make checks payable to: Brainerd Parks and Recreation, 1619 NE Washington St., Brainerd, MN 56401. Please note the checks are for the Gregory Park tennis court project. For more information, contact the parks and recreation department at 828-2320.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.

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Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852
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