With the construction of the new Tewksbury Memorial High School, The Friends of Tewksbury Tennis are hoping to obtain a set of tennis courts built directly on campus. At this past Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, the group took a positive step towards that goal, leaving with a unanimous vote of approval.
The FTT is pushing for the addition of five tennis courts on the high school campus, in addition to the three courts currently in existence on Livingston Street. Friends of Tewksbury Tennis member Mary MacDonald, also the head coach of the girls’ tennis team at TMHS, said the additional courts would be a great asset to the town.
“This is a life sport,” she said. “For so many people that play sports in high school and college, once they get out into the real world they don’t have the opportunity to play. Tennis is a sport that you can play your whole life and we are trying to remind people of that. With tennis growing in the town at a fast rate I think [eight total courts] is going to go a long way towards helping to get more people out there playing. The more the better.”
This recent support from the Board of Selectmen comes in addition to that of the Community Preservation Committee’s, which the Friends of Tewksbury Tennis attained earlier this month. A portion of the town’s Community Preservation funds are typically earmarked for recreational purposes. After submitting an application to the committee on the first of this month, the FTT were invited to a July 9meeting to present to the CPC. After the CPC had unanimously approved, the group went on to seek additional support.
“The [Community Preservation Committee] thought we had done a good a job, they thought [the addition of tennis courts at the high school] was a good idea for the town and that [with the earmarked recreation funds] this was an appropriate request,” said MacDonald.
“We are trying to garner support from other groups in towns so [FTT President] Barry Lewin went in front of the Board of Selectmen,” MacDonald added.
Lewin touched upon the particulars of the group’s proposal, clarifying the group’s intentions to build five courts on the new campus, rather than six, to avoid pushing the school’s buffer zone with surrounding neighbors. He indicated that the group would not intend to install lights around the courts, also out of respect for the neighborhoods nearby.
At the conclusion of the presentation, the Board of Selectmen gave Lewin and the FTT a unanimous vote of approval. The group will now go on to the School Committee meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22, in hopes to receive their support as well. If approved, MacDonald said the town is in the process of preparing the warrant article and the townspeople would have the opportunity to vote on the construction of the courts in early October.
If the vote was to pass, MacDonald said the courts would be placed on an agenda of amenities to be built around the campus. However, the projected building spot for the courts lies adjacent to the high school where a temporary parking lot is currently in place. MacDonald added that as soon as there was no longer a need for the temporary parking lot, the building could begin and hopefully finish by the spring of 2013.
The Friends of Tewksbury Tennis vouched the beneficence the additional courts on campus would have to the school and to the town.
“From the high school point of view, I am trying to show people that the tennis program is growing,” MacDonald said. “The team at the high school is more than twice the size it was when I first started and I think if the courts were at the high school the participation would continue to go up.”
Right now, with the only tennis courts in town on Livingston Street, the girls tennis teams have to take a bus to the middle school and then walk through the woods just to get to a practice or game. MacDonald said that many times parents have told her they would feel more comfortable if their child could get to practice just by staying on campus at school.
In addition, the three lone courts at Livingston Street cause high school tennis matches to run extensively long. It takes five matches to complete a varsity match, and with only three courts, not everyone can play at the same time. By the time varsity matches are finished, the JV players don’t often get a chance to play and gain experience.
“I don’t know of many high school sports where you start at 3:30 and don’t finish until 7:00 or 7:30,” MacDonald said. “[Having more courts at the high school] would be a lot quicker, more efficient and more kids would get to play.”
MacDonald also said that additional court space would give the school department the opportunity to support a boys tennis team for the first time in 15 years. She added that the athletic department at TMHS indicated that if there were to be tennis courts directly on campus, they would be able to incorporate tennis into the physical education curriculum, which would again help boost participation.
“I think it would really valuable,” MacDonald said. “The courts would be available for public use when they were not being used by the high school. Everybody comes [to Livingston] after work to play on a beautiful summer night but you have to sit there and wait. If we went from three [courts in town] to eight, hopefully we’ll just get a lot more people enjoying it on these nice summer nights that we’ve been having.”