ELIZABETHTOWN The weather in the north of the country, with its freezes and thaws combined with frost, can be rough on roads and other infrastructure, including tennis courts.
This is the case with the only public tennis courts in the towns of Elizabethtown, Westport, Lewis and Keene.
Located on the grounds of the Elizabethtown Social Center, the Hale Tennis Court, as it is formally known, is ESC property once owned by the Hale family, under the auspices of the Elizabethtown Social Center.
ESC serves residents of the Boquet Valley School District, which includes the towns of Elizabethtown, Lewis, and Westport, although everyone is welcome to participate in events such as concerts and many classes. However, only students aged 12 to 19 within the BVSD are allowed to participate in the teen activities.
While there are two lanes, one currently has warning tape over the net and is off limits due to large cracks spraying tufts of crabgrass, while the other, although there are breaks in the surface, is considered playable.
Charli Kleinman leads the informal tennis group in hopes of finding a solution to the situation.
I remember first coming to Etown over 40 years ago and not knowing anyone. My husband and I walked to the Social Center tennis courts. From that first encounter, we developed friendships that would last to this day. These courts still continue to attract people from all over and new relationships are forged every year. In addition to tennis players, people who play pickleball also use the courts, so it is multifunctional.
Kleinman added: Public tennis courts are a treasure and open to anyone with a racket and some tennis balls. Right now we are taking pledges, not donations, to see if we can come up with something that the board of the Social Center will approve.
ESC Executive Director Arin Burdo provided statistics on Hale Tennis Courts usage and revenue.
The court was built in 1991 at a cost of $48,172.
For the first decade, little or no maintenance was required. From 2003 to 2013, nearly $10,000 was spent to fill cracks and total resurfacing. During that time, approximately $8,000 in revenue was collected (from memberships).
From 2014 to 2020, nearly $12,000 was allocated for crack filling and other total resurfacing. In 2021, the Social Center board voted not to allocate nearly $5,000 to fill cracks again. During this time, approximately $3,500 was raised through donations, including pickleball players, while lines were painted in 2015.
The average annual revenue was $640, while the average annual expenditure was calculated to be $2,593. Thus, total revenue over 30 years was $19,200, while expenses were $77,811. Replacement of the tennis court is estimated at $100,000, with removal of one court costing $10,000.
The known number of members and/or regular players ranged from just 12 in 2020 to 42 in 2011.
Several attempts have been made to increase use of the tennis court, including a teen tennis club, family tennis day, free membership for the ESC’s 75th anniversary, and use by the Elizabethtown Youth Commission.
Burdo explained why they switched from memberships to donations.
We received little income because in 2013 there were few paying members. As part of our 75th anniversary in 2014, we made the courts free and open to the community. This made tennis available to all members of the community rather than being locked to 20-30 players (when membership was required to play), she said.
We decided to try asking for donations and keep the courts open instead of going back to memberships in 2015. We ended up raising a similar amount, and the courts were open to more people, so we kept that policy.
In addition to usage fees and pledges, ESC receives annual revenue from its endowment set up by Cora Putman Hale, as well as a few other sources, including the city of Elizabethtown. The adjacent platform tennis court charges a membership or per-use fee and is thus generally self-sufficient.
The professional rating of Vermont Tennis is that the court is near the end of its life. They do not recommend further maintenance. Neighboring municipalities have installed new free pickleball courts funded by NYS grants for which we are not eligible. The courts have been identified as a lowest-priority item in the strategic planning process, Burdo said.
There was once a tennis court next to the ESC lawn, which was beyond repair and so had been completely refurbished and converted into a basketball court.
Interested parties can contact Charlene Kleiman at: [email protected]