Cary Tennis Park could see major upgrades

snagem@newsobserver.comJune 5, 2014 

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    A public hearing on Cary’s proposed 2015 budget is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12, during the Town Council meeting at Town Hall, 316 N. Academy St., Cary.

— The Cary Tennis Park is a busy place, with novice and serious players filling the courts every day and tournaments taking place most weekends.

There’s only one problem: rain.

None of the park’s 29 courts are covered, so there’s no shelter from Mother Nature. Some tournaments set for the Cary Tennis Park have had to move to local college campuses when the weather didn’t cooperate.

Cary’s proposed budget for the coming year includes a roughly $4.5 million plan to expand and renovate the tennis park on Louis Stephens Drive in western Cary. Plans call for adding eight covered courts that would protect players and spectators from rain.

“Part of it reflects the success of the tennis facility,” Doug McRainey, director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources in Cary, said of the upgrades. “The courts are full constantly.”

Annual attendance at the Cary Tennis Park is 250,000, McRainey said. The park hosts 40 to 45 tournaments each year, including some high school tournaments. The facility has hosted the ACC college tennis championships for nine of the last 10 years.

In addition to covered courts, there are plans to make improvements to the tennis clubhouse, providing more office space for the facility’s 13 full-time staff members and more part-time staffers.

The pro shop and lounge area would also be expanded.

In addition, there are plans to replace existing courts for a cost of $2.2 million over the next few years.

Sometimes tennis courts can last 25 to 30 years, said William Davis, Cary’s athletic manager. But a nearby creek has caused water to seep through the asphalt of the courts at the 14-year-old facility, he said.

The entire multi-million-dollar plan is a major expense in Cary’s $209.3 million proposed operating budget. The spending plan is an increase of 3.7 percent over the current budget year, and the Town Council is expected to approve a budget June 26.

The Cary Tennis Park isn’t a money-maker, with an annual deficit hovering around $275,000 during a recent five-year period.

But McRainey and Williams said the facility is an important part of Cary’s focus on parks and recreation. Its annual economic impact is about $1.4 million a year, according to McRainey.

Cary hopes to help pay for the project with about $2.3 million from hotel-occupancy funds distributed by Raleigh and Wake County. The county doles out money for projects that boost tourism.

If the project is funded as planned by the town, the facility will have a total of 33 courts. The plan is to put the eight covered courts over four existing courts, McRainey said.

The covered courts would have fencing around the sides and wind screens during the winter months. Williams said he hopes there will be heaters “to take the chill off.”

“We have a strong attendance now in the winter,” he said.

McRainey said the Cary Tennis Park allows tennis fans to come together. Soon, rain might not even keep them away.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the number of courts,” McRainey said of the park’s popularity. “It creates its own synergy.”

Nagem: 919-460-2605; Twitter: @BySarahNagem

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