Public tennis courts no longer at Tommie Barfield? Tennis group fighting to keep them in play

Roger LaLonde/Staff (2)
Tennis players who have met five days a week to play informal tennis behind the courts at Tommie Barfield, for some for 20 years, may have played their last  game today (Friday). Due to an estimated $10,000 cost to resurface the courts the Marco City Council voted to opt out of a portion of a maintenance agreement dealing with maintaining the courts, owned by the county schools district.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE // Buy this photo

Roger LaLonde/Staff (2) Tennis players who have met five days a week to play informal tennis behind the courts at Tommie Barfield, for some for 20 years, may have played their last game today (Friday). Due to an estimated $10,000 cost to resurface the courts the Marco City Council voted to opt out of a portion of a maintenance agreement dealing with maintaining the courts, owned by the county schools district.

Tomorrow the courts will be closed.

A group of tennis players, who have played socially for more than 20 years, at least five mornings a week, is trying to keep the courts open.

Brigette Skitter is one of as many as 50 tennis players during a year who use the courts in the morning, with heavy play in the winter months.

Players have contacted Brian Milk, director of Community Affairs, new City Council members and school district officials to come up with a way that the courts can be used.

"This isn't just about us, it's about the community having public courts available at all times," Skitter said. "There are young kids, families, using the courts and the many vacationers that come to the Island."

Almost on cue, Kim Swindall from Atlanta, asked if the courts were open to the public.

"We have a time share involved with the Marriott and we have to pay to use those courts," Swindall said. "There are five of us on a girls trip that want to play when we can and play for free."

A difference with the city and Collier County Public Schools over the level of responsibility for maintenance repairs has ended a portion of an interlocal agreement for their maintenance. The city continues to maintain the baseball diamond adjacent to the tennis courts.

When the city learned that the courts needed to be resurfaced at an estimated cost of $10,000, it felt that was the responsibility of the school district which owns the property.

"Over the years we have maintained the property to the extent of putting up wind screens and providing new nets," Milk said. "The city felt the courts could become a liability and was not budgeting for an expense that belongs to the county."

The school district looked at the resurfacing differently.

A spokesperson for the school district said the city notified it that the tennis courts were in need of repair and that the city had ample tennis courts at their own (Marco Island Racquet) tennis center.

The district spokesperson said, "By law, district funds are to be used for K-12 educational needs, not community recreation; community recreational facilities are the responsibility of cities and counties."

Milk said the interlocal agreement was revised in July to omit the tennis courts.

Milk did say the city will continue to maintain the baseball field and its lights because of the amount of community use by the two schools and adult softball programs.

"There are eight tennis courts at the racquet center that are available daily in the afternoons for the public," Milk said.

Alex Galiana, city recreation administrative supervisor, said that six courts are available from 1 to 3:45 p.m. daily and from 1 p.m. on weekends, with no charge to the public.

The school district spokesperson said the paved tennis court area can be used for physical education activities if the nets are removed and patch a few areas.

"Maintaining the area for PE is less expensive than maintaining the pavement for tennis," the spokesperson said.

The school district posted a sign in November, saying, "Per agreement between the city of Marco Island and the School District, these courts are no longer maintained as public tennis courts and will be closed, effective Dec. 1, 2012. Community members are welcome to use the tennis courts at the City Racquet Center on San Marco Road."

The tennis players using the courts say both governmental bodies are missing the point.

Petronella Morsch and Anthony Rodi showed a letter they sent to Milk.

It said that for years a number of senior Marco residents have gathered for two hours to enjoy noncompetitive, friendly tennis.

"Anyone, of any level of play, is always welcome," the letter said. "It is a source of camaraderie and fun and an opportunity to meet new people."

They said that the Racquet Center was not conducive to their casual way of play.

Dr. Joseph Mizgerd notes the member ages of the group are 50 to nearly 90.

He said, "For example one of our players is 88 and one of the best doubles players I have encountered. To some extent he owes his good health to the excellent exercise provided by almost daily tennis. So many other seniors on Marco would suffer physically and possibly psychologically and mentally if deprived of the highs associated with vigorous exercise and social contact."

The tennis players enjoy the convenience and the ability to play in the morning for free.

"Over the year there are 50 players that come and go," said tennis player Rene Bruggeman. "There is always someone there to play, no appointment."

"Who wants to play tennis in the afternoons in July," Frank Natoli asked.

During public tennis reservations can't be made.Skitter spoke of the concern of using the Racquet Center courts so frequently, that they might get charged.

Galiana said there will be no charge.

"There is no one there to charge," he said, as no employees are working at those times. "There are some days where we schedule a special event on the courts during those times for members and the courts will not be available.

The only way the closing can be changed is if the city makes a request to the school district.

The district spokesperson said, "In order to open it up (to discussion) the city would have to request a change to the Interlocal Agreement with the district. The district would then consider the request."

Tennis player Doug Heard said he contacted school district board members and other officials. One school person told him she was sympathetic, but the rules are the rules.

The tennis group hopes to build community support. However, it won't be there for Saturday.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 4

RayPray writes:

"Alex Galiana, city recreation administrative supervisor, said that six courts are available from 1 to 3:45 p.m. daily and from 1 p.m. on weekends, with no charge to the public."

>>> Available because they don't pay anyone to hang around the office.

>>> Obvious solution to problem is to fire useless wooden Indian Galiana and use a small portion of the $aving$ to fix the school courts....

>>> This would also allow Alex to get another genuime job to fail at....

ed34145 writes:

There is plenty of court availability at the town racquet center.

OutWithTheOldies writes:

Ray, Perhaps we should have the Eagle donate all the money spent on server space to store you rude, idiotic comments and use that to pay for the court repair? I swear, if ever there were a case for euthanasia- you would be it. Go crawl back into your hole.

RayPray writes:

" I swear, if ever there were a case for euthanasia- you would be it. Go crawl back into your hole."

>>> That you Alex?

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