School district and parks and recreation leaders hope they have hit a winner with a new plan aimed at ending a long-simmering neighborhood debate over lighting tennis courts near Lawrence High School.
The Lawrence public school district has filed a plan with City Hall that would abandon the lighting project at LHS, and instead expand and light courts at Free State High School.
“It just hasn’t worked out at Lawrence High,” said Tom Bracciano, director of facilities and maintenance for the school district. “There are some repairs that needed to be done to the Free State tennis courts. We think with the city it can be a nice replacement for the old Lawrence Tennis Center.”
Plans call for the five existing courts at Free State to be rebuilt to correct deteriorating court conditions. The project also would add three new courts to the east of the existing courts and add lights for night play on all the courts.
The project has emerged as leaders with Lawrence Parks and Recreation have struggled to come up with a plan to light eight courts at Lawrence High. Neighbors have objected to previous lighting plans, citing concerns the light will spill over to their properties.
The Free State site is farther removed from any homes. The site is not as centrally located as the Lawrence High courts, but parks and recreation leader Ernie Shaw said the facility does have good access and ample parking.
“It seems like it can be a real good option that won’t make a lot of people mad,” Shaw said.
The project, though, is not a done deal. The city and the school district will need to reach an agreement on cost sharing of the project. Bracciano estimated that reconditioning the existing courts would cost $350,000. Adding three new courts and lighting for all eight courts would drive the total cost to about $547,999. He said the school district could donate the land, but has not budgeted to do tennis court construction.
Shaw said his department will present possible financial options for the project to the City Commission in the next several weeks.
The city does have some money budgeted for tennis court improvements. The city has been looking to replace the eight-court Lawrence Tennis Center, which was lost in 2009 as part of Lawrence High’s expansion of athletic fields.