Archive for Monday, March 26, 2012

Tennis compromise

City officials should respond to neighborhood concerns by looking at alternatives to lighting tennis courts near Lawrence High School.

March 26, 2012


Back and forth action is an expected part of the game of tennis, but the back and forth surrounding the city’s efforts to install lights on eight tennis courts in the Centennial neighborhood has gone on long enough.

City commissioners will be asked at their Tuesday meeting to move ahead with plans to light the courts that were built as part of the sports facility expansion project at Lawrence High School. The city has been trying to figure out how to light these courts since at least 2009, when eight lighted tennis courts in the area were removed to make way for the LHS project.

The new courts have single-family homes nearby, and residents have expressed many concerns that the lights will shine into their properties and be a general nuisance. The city’s own light studies generally have agreed — until now. A new plan suggests light leakage can be kept to allowable levels, if the city is willing to grant itself a variance to install taller than normal poles and spend about $80,000 to $100,000 more than budgeted to install the lights.

Neighbors remain skeptical that the plans on paper will work in the real world. They note the school district made several promises about lighting and storm drainage related to the LHS projects, but many neighbors feel those improvements nonetheless have negatively impacted their neighborhood in ways contrary to what school district officials promised. In short, there is a serious lack of trust in the Centennial neighborhood.

Neighbors correctly point out that the city has not given serious consideration to partnering with the school district to light the five tennis courts at Free State High. Those courts are much more isolated from single-family homes. Granted, five courts won’t serve the needs of tennis enthusiasts as well as eight courts, but it seems like a reasonable compromise. Tennis players still will have access to unlighted courts at LHS as well as a lighted court at the nearby Veterans Park.

City commissioners speak often about protecting Lawrence’s neighborhoods. Before moving forward on the LHS lighting plan and risking their credibility with residents of that area, commissioners should direct staff members to seriously explore the possibility of provide lighted courts at Free State High. It might be a way to provided additional tennis facilities while rebuilding trust in the Centennial neighborhood.


johnsont1 6 years, 3 months ago

Question for city commissioners: How does the light pollution of the new football complex at LHS compare to the predicted light pollution of the new tennis court lights? Agreed that FSHS should have lights, too. Also, they should have new courts, or at least level courts...

halfpint 6 years, 3 months ago

If tennis tournaments are the main reason the Lawrence Tennis Association demands 8 lighted courts instead of 5 (and I still don't understand why it's impossible to have a tennis tounament on 5 courts), is it worth it to cause this much permanent disruption to a neighborhood and expense just for a private club to host an event that happens only a couple times per year?

Kay Pettit 6 years, 3 months ago

We want to be able to play a sport we love at night. Not just tournaments. The old courts were full all summer long at night. I personally cannot take the sun and worry about skin cancer and heat stroke in all of our players. It is hot on a tennis court during the day. The Centennial Neighbors signed a legal agreement with the School District that included lights on the tennis courts. When will you stop asking for more? How much have you guys cost the School District? The tennis lights also meet the Land Development Code of the City. The neighbors are the ones that continually cost the city and school district money. We want those two taxing entities to work together to get us a nice set of courts at the least possible expense. Were the schools there when you bought your house? This neighborhood is just so used to complaining that you don't know when to quit. We will not distrubt nor disturb you. We will pick up trash. Being close to schools and recreational facilities is not a bad thing in real estate. 23rd street is more of a negative for your neighborhood than a few tennis players.

LadyJ 6 years, 3 months ago

Could not help but notice nobody is hardly ever playing on the lighted tennis courts at Vetern's park. Is there something wrong with those courts?

Carol Bowen 6 years, 3 months ago

So, Kpetit, you think it's ok to light up a neighborhood for the sake of recreation. Whether the school or the residences were there first is hardly relevant. The residents are definitely there now . . . Before the proposed lit tennis courts. As the editorial points out, there are less intrusive options. There is no need to impose on the neighborhood.

Bigdog66046 6 years, 3 months ago

Kpettit as you said people are there EVERY night until 10p.m. (time lights go out) would you like someone to build something 30-50 feet from your back yard, and then raise it 10 feet up so everyone there "playing" looks down in YOUR backyard? every night? So you wouldn't be able to set out side and enjoy the quite summer night ever in your own backyard? That is what the school district has done to some of the neighbors. THEY cost us taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars by not planning the whole sports complex ahead of time and constantly changing what the city had approved. That is why the courts had to get involved, and it's the school districts poor management that has cost us taxpayers the extra money. So what should we do spend another $230,000 and keep going at all cost? Then when they need restrooms that weren’t put in when they should have been spend another $500,000 of our tax dollars. After all we have already spent $20 million + why stop now???? At some point we as taxpayers need to tell the city and school district enough is enough and that time is NOW! Stop trying to put lights on these courts. And IF we have the money put it with the new rec center out west or look at Free State as a cheaper option!

bigpicture 6 years, 3 months ago

k’s remarks do bring up a good point. This process (also known as due diligence) is expensive, in terms of man-hours. However, it is much less expensive than retrofitting, re-doing, and un-doing mistakes stemming from a poorly planned and shoddily implemented construction project.

Just think, if the USD, by their own initiative or as directed by the then-City Commission, had taken another year or two to plan an athletic complex, we could have saved 100s of 1000s, if not millions, in interest rates and construction costs, since the economy has been so poor of late. Independent of that, we would also have a facility so well-designed (and, presumably, well-vetted) as to rival the best of the Sunflower League. (Meanwhile, for those interested parties, the previous tennis complex would have remained intact, and perhaps still would be.)

We should be able to feel proud of these facilities. Instead, they must be defended at every turn. City codes must be changed to accommodate the sloppiness. It is a shame. Too little, too fast, for too much money.

As an aside, I still wonder what the big rush was to push these facilities into being in 2008-09. The only answer I can come up with is that someone needed a payday from the project. LJW, you have shown some recent interest and talent in digging up fiscal responsibility scandals - see Purple Heart Veterans Foundation. How about it?

jayneway 6 years, 3 months ago

Simple answer.. demolish the current 5 courts at Free State (which are in relatively poor condition) and build 8 new ones and light them. Problem solved.

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