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.