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District, tennis community at odds over courts

Woodbury tennis supporters would like these dilapidated tennis courts at Woodbury Elementary to be resurfaced, though District 833 is considering a plan to replace the courts with a hard-top playground.

Members of Woodbury's tennis community are pushing back against the possibility of some dilapidated courts going from bad to altogether gone.

The effort, being led by Woodbury Royals Tennis Booster Club President Mary Hellerud and Woodbury High School tennis coach Michael Moran, seeks to preserve and upgrade four courts at Woodbury Elementary School.

They are urging District 833 to spare the courts as officials there consider whether to replace the tennis courts with a hard-top playground.

The district's 10-year facilities plan calls for the Woodbury Elementary tennis courts to be resurfaced in fiscal year 2015, which prompted district Facilities Director John Doth to take a closer look at the situation last year.

He said he started considering the playground option after observing the tennis courts last summer and later learning that adjoining Woodbury Middle School physical education program no longer used the courts for activities.

"They're in lousy condition for tennis courts," he said.

Doth said he next spoke with Woodbury Elementary School Principal Kristine Schaefer who expressed a desire for a larger hard-top playground area for students there. He then suggested the possibility of refurbishing the area for a new play area.

Which direction the district takes remains up in the air.

"I don't really have a preference," Doth said. "It's whatever the district needs from the district's perspective."

The idea has met resistance from members of Woodbury's tennis community, who argue that the the Woodbury area is seeing a resurgence in the sport and will need all the space it can get.

"The tennis community is strong here in Woodbury," Moran said, adding that more than 60 boys came out for this year's boys tennis team.

According to a letter Hellerud sent to Doth and others, WHS has seen "rapid growth" in its tennis program - enough, she noted, to add a third "C Squad" to both the boys and girls programs.

"Court space was an issue five years ago and as the numbers have increased, it has become even more critical to address," her letter states.

If brought up to par, Moran envisions those courts being available as a practice facility for the WHS team and, ultimately, paving the way for a Woodbury Middle School tennis team.

"We need a feeder program," he said.

Even though the courts see no action through P-E classes, they are used during the spring and fall months through District 833 Community Education's middle-school tennis instruction.

"To think that we don't need court space in the community - we do," Moran said.

There's one major factor working against the effort, however: funding. Doth said projections indicate it could cost as much as $250,000 to refurbish the tennis courts. The cost of a new hard-top playground? About half, he said.

"It's a lot of money to invest," he said of the tennis court option.

Moran and Hellerud counter, however, that grant funding could become available through the U.S. Tennis Association.

Doth said it's possible a compromise could be struck - a two-court tennis facility paired with a smaller hard-top playground, he theorized - in the situation, which he, Schaefer and district administration will decide.

That decision, Doth said, won't be made until spring 2014.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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