Serving a Winner
Newly renovated public tennis courts have Seaside beaming.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
On a breezy summer Friday, Seaside’s Wheeler Street tennis courts– perched above the city like a condor’s nest– pulse with festivities. Dozens of community members are here to celebrate the ribbon cutting of four refurbished tennis courts– and maybe get in some ground strokes.
The courts’ chimney-red and forest-green surface gleams in the afternoon light, promising to absorb each ball’s bounce flawlessly. The new nets stand taut.
Until this renovation, tennis courts in Seaside (including these four) were cracked and decaying, on the verge of extinction. The city’s school and private club courts were fine, but its public courts were unplayable.
“The [renovation] has been a long time coming,” Mayor Ralph Rubio says before a crowd of about 50. “These courts have been here for a long time and have never looked this nice.”
Indeed, just a few months ago, the Wheeler Street courts looked more like the desolate wasteland of a Mad Max movie than a place for recreation. Today, the four public courts are the only unvandalized ones in the city– and the only ones with nets.
Not including the Wheeler Street courts, there are just two other public courts in Seaside: Cutino Park and Metz Park.
However, playing tennis at the Cutino and Metz courts isn’t advisable. Mark Parker, Seaside parks supervisor, says both court sites are in the dilapidated condition that the Wheeler Street courts were in before the facelift. In fact, the Cutino court doubles as a basketball court and is barely recognizable as a tennis court.
“[The courts] have been vandalized, they don’t have any nets and one of the courts has a crack in the ground,” Parker says. “[The city] stopped putting up nets a while ago because they just ended up getting removed.”
But Parker says the Wheeler Street courts were in even worse shape than the park courts. The Wheeler Street courts were first deemed “in major disrepair,” at a Seaside City Council meeting in February 2005.
At the meeting, Murray Macdonald– United States Tennis Association community tennis coordinator and president of the Meadow Brook Tennis Club in Seaside– spoke in support of the upgrade as did Craig Stevens, director of community tennis for the USTA.
The courts needed everything from complete resurfacing to new nets and concrete gutter removal. The $148,000 project began in April 2008 and was completed June 26.
Macdonald, Seaside city councilman Tom Mancini and Highland Elementary physical-education instructor Jimmy Brooks were among those in attendance at the July 18 ribbon-cutting, wearing white short-shorts and eager to get out onto the court.
After the ribbon was cut, the four courts bustled with activity. Macdonald and his wife, Dora, hit balls with the children and Brooks, who Rubio claims has coached “every sport known to man,” ran drills with the tennis team. Mini-Roger Federers and Serena Williamses appeared everywhere: spinning, slamming and lobbing florescent yellow balls back and forth.
Brooks’ tennis team is just one of the elements that have improved with the Wheeler Street renovation. Children ages 7-17 from Seaside and surrounding areas can join Brooks’ team and play matches every Saturday, year-round, for a minimal fee.
Brooks, who works with Seaside’s city recreation department part time, held Wheeler Street’s first day long tennis camp this past week and hopes to have more.
“It’s awesome to give the kids the opportunity to play tennis,” he says. “Most of [the kids] cannot afford the private clubs.”
Leonardo and Xiadani Juarez, who attend Highland Elementary, are beginners who recently joined Brooks’ team. As he volleyed with a teammate, Leonardo says jokingly that he’s already “better than my mom.”
“It’s excellent having a nice place to play [tennis],” Leonardo’s father, Nilton, says as he watches his son. “Here, it’s hard to find a nice place to play.”
Location: At the intersection of Carson and Wheeler Streets in Seaside
Hours: Morning until dusk
Register for all Wheeler Street activities at Oldemeyer Center, 986 Hilby Ave., Seaside. All tennis activities cost $14/residents, $18/non-residents. Call 899-6800 for more info.
Beginners Tennis Class (ages 7-17) Oct. 6-Oct.15, Monday and Wednesday, 12:30-2pm or 2-3:30pm
Seaside Beginning Tennis Team (ages 7-17) Every Saturday 1:30-3pm
Seaside Youth Intermediate Tennis Team (ages 8-17) Every Saturday Noon-1:30pm