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Contentious issue of lighted tennis courts near LHS to be discussed again by city commissioners


One after another, speakers with fingertips that lighted up stepped to the lectern at Lawrence City Hall last night. It was like a herd of E.T.’s had come to watch the City Commission meeting.

I’ve seen odder things at City Hall, but, no, there wasn’t an extraterrestrial presence at Tuesday night’s commission meeting. These lighted fingers could only mean one thing: The contentious issue of lighted tennis courts in the Centennial neighborhood is back.

More than a dozen members of the Lawrence Tennis Association showed up at the meeting to lobby commissioners to reconsider the idea of placing lights at the Lawrence Tennis Center near Lawrence High School. (The fingertip lights are a device players use to play on unlit courts.)

And simply put, the game is back on. Commissioners agreed to put the lighting issue on a future City Commission agenda for discussion.

That’s despite the fact that it appeared for the last several months that the issue was done and decided. City commissioners have agreed to spend about $640,000 to build eight, lighted, outdoor tennis courts as part of the city’s recreation center at Rock Chalk Park.

The lights have been controversial because neighbors near the site — which is basically on the grounds of the former Centennial Elementary school at 2145 Louisiana Street — have objected to the amount of light the court lights would spill onto their properties.

But members of the Lawrence Tennis Association have been equally adamant that the city needs to follow through on a promise to light the courts. Renovations at nearby Lawrence High School caused the city to lose eight lighted tennis courts several years ago. The school rebuilt the courts in a new location, but when it came time to add the lights, neighbors voiced concerns and city officials backed off.

Some city officials thought they had solved the issue with the Rock Chalk Park project. On Tuesday, members of the tennis association said they were appreciative of the future courts at Rock Chalk Park, but said they still want lighted courts in the central part of town. Plus, they said a city of Lawrence’s size could support lighted courts both at Rock Chalk Park and the Lawrence Tennis Center. That argument upset at least one commissioner.

“When we started all of this, it always has been about the need for eight illuminated courts,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. “Now we have the conversation up to 16, and I’m not buying that.”

But the other four commissioners said they were fine with having a formal discussion about the idea at a future meeting. Two new members have joined the commission — Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan — since the commission last discussed the issue. Neither Farmer nor Riordan indicated a position on the idea Tuesday.

“But I had a meeting with the neighborhood group a few weeks ago, and it seems to be pretty adamantly opposed to this,” Farmer said. “I think the tennis court lights are the straw that is breaking the camel’s back, it seems.”

A date for the commission to discuss the issue hasn’t been set. When one is, I’ll pass it along. And when it does, forget “E.T. phone home.” It will be: Chad, phone home. It will be a late night.


John Pultz 5 years ago

While I am a bit sympathetic to the neighbors (I live near the KU stadium and very much dislike the spillage from its lighting), I am aghast that the city would engage in the massive project of juggling LHS sports facilities without thinking through all the steps, including lighting the tennis courts. Was no one thinking?

That said, I have heard that there are lights that could be used on those courts that would have virtually no off-court spillage. They may cost more, but wouldn't that be a reasonable compromise?

And 8 vs 16 lit courts: for me it's a matter of location, making facilities available throughout the city in ways that minimize driving and allow, kids to young to drive especially, access by foot and bike. The new facility out west will be wonderful but its location will greatly limit foot and bike access.

deec 5 years ago

If there is so much demand for lighted tennis courts, why doesn't the free market build some and profit from them?

Anthony Mall 5 years ago

Can we charge cyclists for the bike lanes they demand? The lights are timed and can be turned off at a reasonable time. If the massive baseball lights don't cause an issue I don't see how a few tennis lights will ruin someone's night!

deec 5 years ago

Good idea. Let's also make every street in the country a toll road.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

"Can we charge cyclists for the bike lanes they demand?"

At what age would you start charging cyclists? From the moment they can balance on two wheels, or would you charge those on trikes and training wheels, as well?

Anthony Mall 5 years ago

Maybe the same age kids start playing tennis... Asking one group of people to pay for lights dictates that every group should have to pay for things they use.. pools, roads, bike lanes, tennis courts, and that's ridiculous!

Matthew Herbert 5 years ago

if you live near a high school, you should probably prepare yourself to deal with the facilities that come with said high school. I live next to a restaurant - should I complain that my front yard smells like fried food all the time? Would the city commission care?

deec 5 years ago

The residents were there before the courts were built.

workinghard 5 years ago

Our family lived here before LHS was built.

Bigdog66046 5 years ago

Living with SCHOOL activities are one thing. Dealing with PRIVATE groups using it all day and night and all weekend is completely another thing.

otto 5 years ago

I lived in my house prior to a bar going in - I lived next to a commercial building. Try living next to a bar in this town. I'd rather have a tennis court with search lights illuminating it.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

You just said it - you moved next to a commercial bldg. Did you not expect there to be a business there? I live in N. Lawrence. That's like me saying it isn't fair there are trains over here, even though I bought the house knowing that I would hear some trains.

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

Right Schumm, the best way to serve the entire community is to concentrate all of the lit courts in the NW quadrant of the City /sarcasm. These courts are a great school and neighborhood asset. I would much rather be able to bike or walk to a local court instead of having to drive all the way across town.

mom_of_three 5 years ago

If I were a neighbor, I would be more concerned about the foul softballs landing in the backyard, and possibly breaking something. Lights have timers...

patkindle 5 years ago

I am sure most of you agree the govt knows what is best for all of us remember it is all about the kids if the neighbors don't like it, they can sell their house and move sure they own the home and pay taxes, but they do not own the night the city owns that and don't you ever forget it we are Lawrence, hear us roar,, all nite long

workinghard 5 years ago

Aren't there two lighted courts at Veteran's Park, two or three blocks away? Haven't seen them used too much after dark. Do wish they would turn the lights off at 10 pm though because of the basketball players.

Matt Schwartz 5 years ago

How often do you go or see there after dark? They are being used.

workinghard 5 years ago

Every night. Used more for basketball.

spiderd 5 years ago

And so Mr. Schumm is already seeing the folly in the ridiculous rec center: a whole lot of building with a whole lot of stuff built out of town where no one can conveniently access it. Baffling.

irvan moore 5 years ago

so does this mean that every time a new commission sits we should revisit and try to change the decisions of previous commissions, revisiting is a bad decision commissioners

gatekeeper 5 years ago

I sympathize with the home owners. There are many lit courts in town and the stupid new rec center will have plenty. People don't have to drive far in town to find a lit court. Straight from the Parks and Rec site:

Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department provides lighted outdoor courts for free play at the following locations:

•Deerfield Park, 2901 Princeton Blvd. •Holcom Park, 2700 West 27th St. •Lyons Park, 700 N. Lyon St. •Veteran's Park,1840 Louisana Players may activate the lights by push button. The light will shut off automatically.

Seriously, aren't there more important things to for the tennis junkies to whine about? How many are really playing after dark? I doubt they're playing much in the winter when it's dark out in the evenings. Considering now it isn't dark until 8:30, how many people are trying to access a lit court after 8:00 at night and can't play at one the above listed courts? No one should really be playing past 9:30-10:00 anyways because people start going to bed and it's disrepectful to the people that live near these courts. It isn't just about what the tennis players want. How about they think about the community too. If you look at their website, the only things they have scheduled are matches on Sundays from 5-7pm. Don't need lights for those.

We're already taxed to death in this town and now they want the taxpayers to pay for lights so a few whiners can play tennis at night.

Mark Elzea 5 years ago

Actually, Deerfield no longer has lighted tennis courts (a fact I missed until I recently went to play tennis there). Basketball and skateboard only, now.

hoosier 5 years ago

The neighborhood association is against everything regarding LHS. I, for one, wish that this project would proceed and that the city commission would quit putting up with the crap from this minority group. If you don't want to live around a vibrant high school than MOVE!!!

buffalo63 5 years ago

It is kind of funny that people think the option for the neighbors is to move. In a meeting one person state they lived several blocks away and would like to be nearer the tennis courts (and lights). When a neighbor stood and offered to trade houses, there was no response.

buffalo63 5 years ago

The whole issue is the fact that when installing lights, they CANNOT meet City Code. If they could, the lights would already be up. Also, these courts are closer to more houses than the previous courts.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

Neighborhood associations serve a great purpose, to protect the interest of property owners. MANY people that live near LHS have been there a long time. Were they supposed to know 15-20 years ago the city was going to change the area around LHS so drastically and potentially install lights that could change their quality of living? Should the school and a small minority of people in town control everything in a neighborhood? The property owners have a lot to lose, mainly their property values. If that place it lit up bright at night, who's going to want to buy that house? You make it sound like it's just so easy to sell a house and move into a new home.

A few people that want some lights should not trump the rights of property owners in the area.

From your post, I would say you're part of the tennis club.

Kate Rogge 5 years ago

These people live a block and more away from the high school and the new tennis courts are literally next door (as close to their houses as would be another house on the same street). Would you like your neighbor to have lighted tennis courts 15' from your bedroom?

Bob Forer 5 years ago

And the tennis players are a majority group?

Bigdog66046 5 years ago

Instead the commission should listen to 12 Whiners wanting 100's of thousand of TAX dollars for their own private use?? for the 5th time!

overthemoon 5 years ago

When its 100 degrees in the shade til 6 or 7 o'clock, league play often starts that late...and there are always people waiting for courts after league teams finish up and players don't stop til the lights go out at 10 or 11 o'clock.

bigpicture 5 years ago

There are a lot of blustery comments that can be made about this issue, but the fact is the lights can't conform to city code. The USD, when building the courts, didn't verify a LOT of details pertinent to city code and had to make many after-the-fact changes to the construction to conform (on our tax $ I'll add). If the lights can't conform, then they shouldn't be erected, no matter how much kicking and screaming a small private tennis club engages in. It comes down to one small group of people who can't bring themselves to drive an extra 7 minutes West to tennis courts vs another small group of people who have permanently invested in the neighborhood. If the commission sides with the LTA, what kind of precedent does THAT set for city development priorities? The USD pushed through a shoddy development plan that penalized tennis players, the neighbors, and - I would argue - the kids. The facilities are new, but they are really poorly designed and shoddily implemented. They deserved a future-oriented multipurpose sports complex and what they got was piecemeal and sub-par.

workinghard 5 years ago

Do the tennis clubs pay any towards the upkeep and utilities for the lighted courts or any courts for that matter? Just wondering. Do they pay a reservation fee for their events?

workinghard 5 years ago

And keep the windows shut even though it's nice out.

Boston_Corbett 5 years ago

Sounds like there are a lot of Cool neighbors in the area.

puddleglum 5 years ago

ha ha! hey look, I got the BRONZE

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

If the lights cannote pass code, then should not be installed. I'd like to see some consistency in Lawrence instead of the variances. Maybe, there would not be so much controversy if the code was followed.

jayhawklawrence 5 years ago

Sorry, but I am not sympathetic to the neighbors.

They just sound selfish to me.

What am I not getting?

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

Imagine those courts just outside your backyard.

Patricia Davis 5 years ago

If the Lawrence Tennis Association needs lighted courts, let them build them and charge their members to play at them. End of problem.

overthemoon 5 years ago

If you knew the large number of people of all social and economic strata that belong to the LTA, you wouldn't make such a silly statement. You also don't know how many people come out to play for fun that don't belong to any organization. Lots of families, students and groups of friends...and some folks waiting to pick up games with other players.

Patricia Davis 5 years ago

If the Lawrence Tennis Association needs lighted courts, let them build them and charge their members to play at them. End of problem.

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

is there a certain agitator stirring up those cool neighbors? happens to enjoy Coletrain, dried oregano, and bronze?

once there were tennis courts, with lights. then to make room for parking, as he demanded, those courts were moved. then he protested the courts. then he kept on protesting, and protesting, and protesting. finally, he ran out of gas last place running for city commission.

budwhysir 5 years ago

Just curious, if the tennis players of Lawrence already have special finger lights to use for playing after dark, are lights on the court such a big deal??? Boy that came out quick, I am sure to get a lashing for this one.

57chevy 5 years ago

Interesting. Commentors equate bicycle lanes to tennis. But bike lanes are used by a wide variety of indiviudals from children to the elderly for exercise here and, in the civilized world, for transportation (In places like Iowa and Wisconsin, bike trails actually go somewhere). Tennis is a relatively exclusive game played by a much smaller segment of the population. I would equate it more to golf than bicycling. Oh, thats right, my same tax dollars that subsidize roads and trails also subsidize a golf course. So, we could say we are stupid enough here in Lawrence to provide country club type activities of any kind for small groups of people, or we can say "you want a tennis court? Buy an empty lot on the edge of town and build them. That way the neighbors will know they are there when they build their houses. Don't put lit tennis courts in an old established neighborhood unless the people there want it. You've already given them a substandard football stadium with bad drainage and no parking. A few tennis ights, a skateboard park, some basketball hoops and the neighbors will start move out and then we can start to deal with crack houses and every other misery that comes with blighting a neighborhood. Here's an alternative idea: Instead of lights the people who live there and pay taxes don't want, how about sidewalks or a bike trail that the neighbors probably do want? Or here is another. Knock down that crappy bar-b-que place downtown and use the lot for something that doesn't actually harm the citizenry, like tennis courts.

HoneyBadger1 5 years ago

Puhleez. People that purchase residences near schools should know that there will eventually be some type of expansion of facilities. It amazes me that some people delight in the ability to exercise obstruction whatever it may be. Just put the lights in for pete's sake...."For the children!"

Glo 5 years ago

The lights are not for the children. School district has said numerous times, they do not need lights, The lights are for the Lawrence Tennis Association. They plan to use the courts for tournaments, etc. It is my understanding they will use the courts 4 nights a week, plus tournament play. The LTA is a "club" of sorts, requiring membership, etc. They are looking for a site that is free, as opposed to paying a fee. The school kids do not have night games.

melott 5 years ago

Don't forget that an excellent elementary school was closed in order to implement this boondoggle. That tennis court used to be a grassy play area. And now they are saying the (much older and poorly designed) school that they kept open needs to be replaced.

Your tax dollars at work.

Dan Coleman 5 years ago

I live on Greever Terrace across the street from these tennis courts. I’ve lived there for 8 years. My wife and I love living near a vibrant high school, and it’s one of the reasons we bought our home. It’s a classic little 1000 sq ft. ranch house, but it’s a mansion to us. We love sports, including tennis. We understand why the LTA wants lighted courts. We all lost something when these stadiums were built. They lost their lights, and we lost a lot of the peace in our neighborhood. These days we have baseball lights and music coming through our front windows, soccer lights and noise through our back windows, buses parked up and down our street, and lots of cars. We’ve also got a baby and a 2 year old (and occasionally a mom and dad) trying to get some sleep. In fact there are a few more babies and toddlers on our street, and other young families like ours who want to put down roots among the older residents in the neighborhood keep it growing in a stable way. But our neighborhood now is maxed out. The question here is, when is enough enough? And this is a question for our whole community, not just our neighborhood. Is it good planning to further disrupt a neighborhood and spend hundreds of thousands of extra $$$ on something, when a win-win solution for 8 lighted courts is already underway at Rock Chalk Park? Should the desires of a small but very persistent and vocal club be allowed to have such a huge impact on the lives and property values of people in our city? We’ve made many compromises over the past 5 years, and now we are trying to make the best of a neighborhood that is dramatically changed from when we purchased our home. I wish the people who are lobbying commissioners so hard again for these lights would make a compromise, too, and embrace the Rock Chalk plan.

Dan Coleman 5 years ago

And I would also add that the 8 lighted courts at Rock Chalk represent 8 new courts for tennis play in Lawrence. They did get their 8 courts at LHS back, just not lighted, and now they will get 8 additional lighted courts.

coeurmudgeon 5 years ago

I would like to point out that the LTA hasn't spent a penny of their own money to have the new courts built. I'm don't know for sure, but I'm guessing they didn't pay anything to have the previous set of LHS courts built, either. Why should a private club feel such ownership in what is really supposed to be a set of high school courts, open to the public?

If you tried to play tennis at these courts while LTA was holding one of their tournaments, you would have a very hard time getting in. Yet, (if you are a resident of Lawrence), you would have as good a right as they do to the use of the courts. You would have paid exactly the same as they did, to have the courts built.

The LTA has an unnatural and unwarranted feeling of ownership of these courts, and they have shown little regard for the neighborhood's concerns. The city needs to tell the LTA that they have to wait for the lighted courts at the new sports complex, and play elsewhere in the meantime. I heard that KU has offered to let LTA use its lit courts...but they declined. Why?

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