Columbia Falls Tennis Court Reconstruction Speeding Along

By Beacon Staff

As I reported last year (here and here), the Columbia Falls tennis courts were not only in bad shape, but had damage that could cause injuries due to fissures and uneven surfaces.

The 40-year-old courts were in such bad shape that the Columbia Falls High School tennis team could not host home meets.

Not anymore.

When the courts’ condition came to a head last year, a local group of tennis enthusiasts got together and presented solutions to the city council. It resulted in the council becoming far more aware of two things: the amount of support for tennis in the community, and the quickly deteriorating and hazardous condition of the courts. After much discussion, and a spirited bit of commentary from City Attorney Eric Kaplan, the city council decided to repair the courts.

Only one problem. The money.

After 40 years, it became apparent that the ongoing effort of applying a new surface paint would no longer suffice and the base would need reconstruction or complete resurfacing – a costly effort.

In 2006 and 2007, various studies were made of the tennis court. The city determined that reconstruction would likely cost more than $270,000. The project would have consumed over 15 percent of the entire budget; or 170 percent of funds available to operate the entire recreation department and represent 85 percent of the funds available for capital improvement. Given that the city is currently indebted for nearly $1 million for recreation improvements, that translated to “Not going to happen anytime soon.”

Given the hazardous nature of the courts and the city’s implicit commitment to provide and care for them, the city council decided that the best the city could accomplish was set aside some funds over several years and resurface the courts in 2008 with a product that did not require reconstructing the base.

This product – called SnapCourts – has been used on numerous courts in climates similar to Columbia Falls, has an expected life of at least 20 years, is assembled on location with lock together squares that can be replaced, does not pond water and provides a cushioned surface for players. The surface material should be particularly conducive to encouraging the less agile to participate in recreation activities.

Instead of the original out-of-reach $270,000, the make-do version of the project came in with a budget of $110,000.

Additional budgetary breathing room came when the Rotary Club of Columbia Falls offered to match a portion of the city funding going to the project – with the condition that the approaches to the court, the court entrances and toilet facility would be modified to provide acceptable access to persons with limited mobility.

The city council voted on Jan. 22 to support the Matching Grant Application submitted by the Rotary Club of Columbia Falls to use the Rotary grant funds to expand access to the courts so that they would be accessible and usable by players who might not normally be able to do so. The club will place a Rotary symbol at the court entrance in exchange for funding the portion of the project that will offer access to physically and mentally challenged athletes.

The grant was approved in late March and before long $22,000 of city funds will get “Rotary’d” into $44,000.

A view of the old as it is covered up by the new.

With the surface prep behind them, the SnapCourts guys are putting things together quickly.

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