This summer the popular youth tennis program run by Community Education will be taking place across the river in White Salmon, Wash., while Hood River’s courts on May Street are being renovated.
However, unless the last bit of funding for the project is raised quickly, Hood River will not be able to proceed with the project and will be in jeopardy of losing a portion of existing grant funding.
Built over 40 years ago, the courts are overdue for a major overhaul. Leslie Kerr, HRVHS girls tennis team coach, voiced concern that the numerous cracks in the courts were unsafe to play on. She set out to improve the condition of the only public courts serving the City of Hood River and to raise the needed funds to get the job done.
Kerr formed the Hood River Tennis Court Committee (HRTCC). In just over two years later, the organization’s goal was nearly realized through receipt of $178,000 in grants from the United States Tennis Association and Oregon Parks & Recreation, as well as over $50,000 in financial support from local businesses, individuals from the community and local government organizations.
A small group of committed citizens have worked tirelessly and today, under the supervision of the City of Hood River, bids are being reviewed and construction is scheduled to begin on the courts this spring.
However, bids have come in over budget, and with unexpected additional engineering and drainage costs, the committee now needs additional funds to complete the project.
After adjusting the budget to accommodate the shortfall, the committee is seeking an additional $20,000.
The committee needs to raise these additional funds by June 10, when the city council will give final approval on the project.
With more than 90 percent of the funds secured, HRTCC needs less than 10 percent of the total to finish the project. Without the additional funds to begin the project this summer, HRTCC risks missing key deadlines specified in one of the grants and losing the significant funds from the United States Tennis Association.
If the project is postponed another year, the courts may not be safe enough to continue the regular high school and Community Ed tennis programs for the 2014 season.
Hood River won the coveted Parks & Rec grant funds for the courts, competing against numerous other communities throughout Oregon. Because the courts serve a large population — 26 percent of our county’s population is under the age of 18 — who need access to affordable recreation. The court project also met the goal of combating the growing obesity epidemic in the state — a high priority in Salem funding decisions.
In Oregon, 60 percent of adults are overweight and in Hood River County, nearly a third of the population is considered obese, based on CDC statistics. Nearly two-thirds do not meet minimum requirements for physical activity.
The courts are home to the HRVHS tennis teams for 10 weeks each spring, serving 40 students. Throughout the summer, Community Education runs popular tennis camps, serving approximately 140 youth and enrollment is growing each year.
In addition, the middle school tennis clinic takes place after school for five weeks each fall serving approximately 40 kids. And from May through October, the courts see plenty of action from the general community.
Future planned tennis programs will include Big Brothers Big Sisters and St. Francis House of Odell for special days to teach kids to play tennis. Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital has expressed interest in developing these programs on the newly renovated courts, to support its own healthy community initiative.
Few sports share the range of benefits offered through tennis and with access to public courts, the cost of entry into the sport is minimal.
With almost 13 percent of Hood River County’s population living below the poverty line, that’s important. Easy access improves participation across age groups, cultures and socioeconomic classes.
The Cleveland Clinic, the nation’s top-rated heart care facility, has called tennis, “an ideal sport for a healthy heart,” because tennis combines “the fat-burning benefits of aerobic exercise with the health- and strength-building benefits of interval exercise,” states Dr. Jack Groppel, of LGE Performance Systems.
USTA studies indicate that the retention rate of players starting out in structured introductory programs like those offered in Hood River is 65 percent, which means that in the past two years alone Community Education has inspired 209 new tennis players — all needing access to public courts.
HRTCC has set up a special crowd source funding site to reach out to the community for individual donations. You can make your own contribution at http://bit.ly/119jl4v. Sponsorships are available between $100 and $20,000 with specified recognition options for donors.
For details contact Leslie Kerr at 541-387-2519. Checks should be made to HRCSD- Tennis Court Project and mailed to Leslie Kerr 4150 Summitview Dr., Hood River, OR 97031.
Gretchen Newcomb, of Hood River, is a tennis court committee member.