Proposition A supporters serve up case for new tennis courts

Photo by Pat Finan/The Journal-ExpressWeeds grow in a crack that spans the width of a tennis court in Young’s Park.

School and city leaders made their case for new tennis courts to voters during a public forum last week.

Knoxville School Superintendent Cassi Pearson and City Manager Aaron Adams fielded comments from a crowd of about 75 people during the forum Aug. 30, at the Knoxville Performing Arts Center.

Knoxville boys tennis Coach Greg Higginbotham called the current courts “an embarrassment” and the plan to build eight new tennis courts and a basketball court on the site of the city’s skate park “a no-brainer.”

““As a coach, I’ve had to watch my tennis players, especially this last year, fall and get injured. As a paramedic for the City of Knoxville, I’ve actually had to bandage players that have fallen during tournaments,” Higginbotham said. “It doesn’t happen anywhere else we go.”

Pearson noted that Proposition A appears on the Sept. 12 ballot as a long paragraph of legalese that doesn’t mention tennis courts. If it gets enough “yes” votes, it would increase the school district’s physical plant and equipment levy by 67 cents to pay for the courts. The vote comes when the district’s management levy is decreasing by 80 cents, Pearson emphasized.

While no objections to Proposition A were raised at the forum, a few people sought details on the city’s plans to build a new skate park. Adams said that because the skate park is among improvements planned for Young’s Park that are considered an “essential corporate purpose,” it could be paid for by a bond issue that can be approved by the City Council, not requiring a referendum. The comprehensive plan for Young’s Park improvements would add $5.41 in taxes a month to owners of a median value Knoxville home, Adams said.

Pearson said the collaborators haven’t focused much time on a contingency plan if Prop A fails, beyond some simple realities.

“When safety is an issue, we have the means and the ability to take the ramps off the skate park and truly just have a slab of cement,” Pearson said. “At the tennis courts, we could take down the nets and not have it playable and just have it exist, but not really have a purpose. That is not what we want to do.

“We’re trying to work as hard as it can to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Pearson said the passage of Proposition A would send a message to the City Council that the community wants improved facilities. Knoxville resident Chris Nichols got in the final word.

“I’m not a tennis player. I don’t have any kids playing tennis. I’m not here because its a tennis court improvement. I think it’s a quality of life improvement for the city of Knoxville,” Nichols said.

“It’s not going to fit my family, but it’s necessary,” he said. “All other communities that are growing and progressing are doing this, and I’d hate to see us pass it up.”