4 PUBLIC SOUTH FLORIDA TENNIS FACILITIES THAT NEED A FACE LIFT

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Brian Lutz / October 5, 2020

Brian Lutz / Tennis Hotline: 561-678-5740

If you build it and it gets old will they still come?

Depending on the size of the facility tennis court renovations cost millions of dollars for public municipalities.

But with the Corona virus pandemic a lot of iconic South Florida tennis institutions are in dire need of repair aren’t getting the attention they need.

The revered tennis courts at Flamingo Tennis Center in 2013 got a make over to the tune of a few millions dollars.

The courts at the Biltmore Hotel recently completed another phase of construction on the club house in 2019.

The sister club Salvador Park in Coral Gables renovations are just under $1.1 million dollars including new pickle ball courts in conjunction with the tennis walls.

All three tennis clubs have rich history in the South Florida tennis scene in connection specifically with the Orange Bowl.

A trip to Flamingo Park will read of “who’s who in past tennis stars that graced the grounds in South Beach.

“It’s been a super long journey for me. I played at South Beach the 16s at Flamingo Park”.

“I played the 14s at the Biltmore. Miami was the first place I traveled to internationally as junior,” explained Roger Federer after he won the 2019 Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium.

All these iconic public tennis facilities with a rich history hold special memories to the tennis playing community.

Flamingo Park Tennis Center suffered terrible flooding in 2009 and concessionaire that didn’t pay rent and had little to no bookkeeping system after an outside audit determined there was no way to determine the clubs financial position.

This led to community outrage a few million dollars later hydra courts were installed along with a new club house.

These clubs were lucky. They dodged the recession in 2008 and had appropriated funds and strong community backing.

But many others are slowly falling apart and with the pandemic soon to be striking municipal budgets hard in the very near feature it will be interesting to see what happens next for a few notable tennis facilities with long and rich history.

It is also questionable how much stimulus if any will come from the hotly contested negotiations among the power brokers in the federal government.

JIMMY EVERT TENNIS CENTER

In Fort Lauderdale’s Jimmy Evert Tennis Center in Holiday Park is run down. Its institutionalized chain link fences and its 18 clay tennis courts and 3 hard courts are in despair and need of renovation.

The place is tired and will need to be upgraded at some point in time sooner than later.

The club also reads as a who’s who to past champions including the Evert’s, Solomon’s and Gottfried’s to name a few. Yet the club has aged badly and has lost its luster.

A stroll around the grounds reveals a need for new fencing, landscaping, plumbing, drainage, court resurfacing and modernized features that other public facilities are offering.

Recently passed budget from the City of Ft. Lauderdale have an emphasis on infrastructure upgrades and improvements to a troublesome sewage system.

There are USTA Grant programs available that can contribute up to 50% of the costs but with the US Open was hit hard this year from the pandemic so the cash cow that fills the USTA bank rolls was hit hard this year without a full tournament and ticket sales.

So for now Ft. Lauderdale famous tennis facility will have to get by as is.

CRANDON PARK TENNIS CENTER

With the Matheson family controlling the future of Crandon Park the good news for tennis players is it will always be a public tennis facility.

PR stunts pulled by the owners of the Miami Open who where trying to pull the wool over tax payers eyes by trying to over turn a law that would never be amended were rightly concerned that the tennis center needed upgrading.

Everyone could agree upon this but what the tournament owners wanted was for the tax payers to pay for it. They disguised the effort by calling it a bond that would be on tax payers to take on all the risk. For example: in the case of a pandemic hitting the area that required cancellation of the tournament.

This risk now lies with tournament owners IMG and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross not Miami Dade County tax payers.

While tournament leaders won the PR battle Bruce Matheson won the war. His real gripe was how expensive the tournament had become and how it priced out middle and lower class tennis fans.

He choose not to point these things out because he didn’t have to nor does he care about his perception in the public eyes.

The Appeals Court easily turned down the tournaments claims because the rules of the agreement with the County and the Matheson family were crystal clear.

Building a new state of the art facility with tax payer dollars would have only enriched the tournament owners and increase ticket prices even more while leveraging the risk onto the public.

Now County decision makers need to figure out what to do with the facility. Mainly the Stadium court. It has a lot of history. It will slowly deteriorate over time and it cost money to maintain it will slowly fall apart unless they can find a tenant or find another use for it.

It’s not easy because according to the agreement with the County and Matheson Family it can only be use for tennis. You can’t suddenly use the facility for concerts or outdoor events even when Covid dies down.

FRANK VELTRI TENNIS CENTER

In Plantation another facility has the similar feel to Ft. Lauderdale’s problem. Another aging and institutionalized large tennis facility in a desperate need of upgrades.

Located in Central Park the club boasts 26 clay courts and 2 hard courts. It also sublets to a few tennis academies and has it’s own city run programs as well located in an affluent area of Broward County.

Pickle Ball is growing in Plantation as 6 more courts where added in Central Park for a total of 12 courts in the city.

Frank Veltri Tennis Center brings in $248k annually and has expediatures that are triple that amount projected for 2021 for a 44% increase.

A lot of these cost are because of Covid related protocols that weren’t in the budget for 2020.

The will continue to do patch work to replace fencing and are heavily dependent on their partnership with the USTA which has reduced a lot of it’s own workers because of Covid-19.

The facility now holds the Orange Bowl tennis championships and as the tournament has outgrown Flamingo Park.

Will the next Roger Federer wax nostalgic about playing at the run down facility in Plantation after they win the Miami Open?

KIRK MUNROE TENNIS CENTER

Named after one of Miami’s earliest tennis aficionados and owner of one of the first tennis courts built in the Magic City. Kirk Munroe Tennis Center has seen better days.

It’s affordable to play $2 per person per hour and it has an old school charm that mostly annoys the locals.

The biggest gripe is the inability to reserve a court. There is a sign in sheet at the front desk if you can find a pen.

The facility is located in the heart of Coconut Grove is really falling apart. It’s a childhood memory for many who grew up in Miami in bygone eras.

The 5 courts facility is tiered into two sections with the lower 2 courts designed for teaching from the City of Miami and independent contractors who dominate the court time much to the chagrin of local tennis player made up of mostly cheapskates and hackers.

It’s a busy facility next to a small park and gigantic banyan tree to shade a large part of the park but the courts are falling apart with lots of crack and loose particles that are from storm run off and sediment that rises up from the sub base of the courts via the cracks.

They have tried to patch up these cracks but it leaves a bad aesthetic and even worse bounce.

Its sister club in the norther part of the city in the larger Morning Side Park just got its tennis facility renovated at the cost of nearly $2 million dollars.

Morningside also reconfigured an additional tennis court to bring its total to 9 hard courts. It’s a hidden gem in the City of Miami where the next challenge lies what do with the dormant public pool in an upscale neighborhood next to historic Little Haiti.

Before the pandemic there was additional funds available for the park renovation ear marked for Kirk Munroe but with Covid-19 all things are up in the air.

The park has been shut down since mid march to the dismay of local players who are wondering how outdoor recreation on a tennis court can be more dangerous than an indoor movie theatre.

It recently re-opened with odd hours and shuts down each day at 7pm just when temperatures begin to cool.

For tennis players these low cost public facilities are vital to current and future generations of tennis players.

Time will tell when these facilities get the upgrades they deserve.