Naked City

South Austin park spared tennis center expansion

The expansion of South Austin Tennis Center is over for now, to the delight of nearby neighbors, the anguish of sports aficionados, and relief of writers struggling with belabored tennis metaphors. An item "directing the City Manager to suspend all plans for the expansion of [SATC], to initiate the process of identifying a new site for a tennis center and to determine the feasibility of developing such a facility jointly with Austin Independent School District," was served last Thursday to City Council, who batted expansion out of the park (oops, wrong sport).

Spurred by what he called "interest on the council for us to look at exploring other sites," Parks and Recreation Director Warren Struss presented Item 43, which in halting plans at SATC opens the door for court construction elsewhere, the most likely being land next to Big Walnut Creek Preserve, off of Johnny Morris Road in Northeast Austin. With construction on a new, nearby middle school to begin within a year, Struse said, "if we're going to move to Johnny Morris, we need to have everything ready in six months." The million or so dollars marked for construction, coupled with AISD funds, could build a 12-court tennis compound, complete with parking and pro shop.

Money for the court expansion came from a 1998 bond election, funds Galindo Elementary Neighborhood Association members, who oppose an expansion, claim were earmarked not for construction, but for improvement of SATC's already existing courts. This is the latest victory for the opposition, the most major one previously being the halving of the proposed expansion from eight to four courts. The Capitol Area Tennis Association's James Humphrey, speaking at Thursday's meeting, asked for the four courts to go forward at SATC, seeing it not as an expansion but a completion of the center's original design. Humphrey is also keen on creation of the Johnny Morris Road center, but the funds aren't available for both; Struse said after SATC expansion, "We would probably end up with about $400,000 left, enough to only build four to six courts elsewhere, even with AISD support."

The measure ultimately passed on a vote of 5-1, with Danny Thomas voting no, saying he was "leery" of suspending plans, and hoping not to find more angry neighbors in the Northeast. Betty Dunkerley abstained, having previously voiced support for a 16-court tournament facility.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

South Austin Tennis Center, South Austin Park, Galindo Elementary Neighborhood Association, City Council, Parks and Recreation, Warren Struse, AISD, Capitol Area Tennis Association, Danny Thomas, Betty Dunkerley, Big Walnut Creek Preserve, Johnny Morris Road

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