First came the football stadium at nearby Lawrence High School, then the baseball field outside their windows.
Now some residents in the Centennial neighborhood are looking to block plans for adding fences, opening gates and even installing overhead lighting at the school’s new tennis courts off Greever Terrace.
“I can already see their knees from my kitchen window,” said Ken Snyder, of daytime players rallying on the raised courts just east of his home. “I don’t really want people to look down into my backyard.”
Such opposition is the latest volley in the often-contentious dealings between neighbors and the Lawrence school district regarding athletics fields and other sites built and upgraded for the high school. What had started in 2008 as a $9 million plan to add and enhance practice fields for football and other sports at both Lawrence and Free State high schools later had blossomed into full-fledged designs for on-campus sites for competition.
Together the projects hit a price tag of $15 million, and drew a lawsuit from Centennial residents angry about expected increases in traffic, noise, drainage problems and other woes in the residential area west and south of campus. An injunction halted the district’s construction plans, until an agreement had been reached to address some concerns.
Now the new tennis courts — eight of them, opened four months ago behind the Lawrence Virtual School to replace the Lawrence Tennis Center that had removed to make way for work on the LHS campus — are the subject of neighborhood worry. Jones and others complain about noise and profanity even closer to their properties, and worry that the addition of gates on the west side could bring those problems yet closer.
With the city now contemplating plans for adding lights — officials intend to discuss prospects with neighbors and members of the Lawrence Tennis Association in the coming weeks — municipal representatives will be a major player in the conversations.
“It’s in the city’s court,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer.
Mark Hecker, assistant director of parks and recreation for the city, said that the community would benefit from having eight courts available for use at night, just as had been available at the Lawrence Tennis Center. But he understands that any project would need to prevent light from spilling onto adjacent residential properties.
Providing lights on four courts would comply with city code, he said, but there’s a possibility all eight could have lights if interested parties could agree to use restrictions: The lights could be off by 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., for example.
“It can be done,” Hecker said. “I don’t know if we can light all eight courts, but we need to talk with the neighbors. …
“We’d like to see if there’s a problem before there’s a problem.”