State Tennis Champs Ask for New Courts

Tuesday March 12, 2024

The Nock Middle School tennis courts

NEWBURYPORT – For the last two years the Newburyport High School girls’ tennis team has won the state championship, but always with other teams hosting the championships.
Newburyport trains outstanding players, whose record entitled them to be the host for the year-end tournament. But according to Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Assn. (MIAA) rules, the tournaments cannot be played here because the city does not have enough courts in the same area.
Last year, the school district took a major step to solving the problem by rebuilding two courts on Johnson Street on the east corner of the middle school campus, but the state rules require the host school to have four courts together.
Across town at Atkinson Park are three more courts, but since these courts are not close to the existing Nock courts, they do not qualify.
“Because there are only three courts (at Atkinson), the matches take twice as long, as only half the positions can play at one time,” the school district told the Community Preservation Commission (CPC) last week.
Teams of three singles matches and two doubles matches play two out of three sets, which can run past dark.
“The need is there,” said George Bradshaw with the Friends of Newburyport Tennis.
“Holding practices on these three courts is also challenging,” according to the district, which said about 60 students play tennis.
The solution, according to a new proposal to the CPC, is to build two or maybe three courts on an underutilized flat stretch of grass that once was a softball diamond.
“New courts at the Nock would give them additional courts to use for both matches and practices and provide the opportunity to host playoff matches, which they cannot do now,” the district said..
The Friends of Newburyport Tennis has raised $21,000 from more than 100 individual and corporate donations on a GoFundMe page, organized Rosemary Turgeon and others. The Institution for Savings donated $2,500, the Joy Nest gave $1,145 and the grandparents of one team member contributed $1,451.
Last week, Steve Bergholm, director of facilities for the Newburyport schools and Kim Turner, head of special projects for Mayor Sean Reardon, a tennis enthusiast himself, asked the city’s Community Preservation Commission (CPC) for $474,560 to turn an underutilized softball diamond at the Nock Middle School into two, maybe three courts.
Only a few feet uphill from the two new courts, the additional courts will give Newburyport’s teams enough courts to host the state championship tournament.
The plan, outlined for the CPC, is to build a viewing stand between the existing and proposed courts for spectators.
That proposal is one of the largest being considered by the CPS and is competing with requests for $75,000 to study replacing the warping and cracking boards on the popular Merrimack River boardwalk, $141,000 to restore the Swan Fountain in the Bartlett Mall pond and more than a dozen other projects.
Newburyport has “a robust tennis community,” the proposal reads. In addition to the outdoor courts, it has an indoor facility with six courts. The only problem with the indoor courts at the Newburyport Tennis Club on Low Street is they are privately owned and rent out at about $60 per hour.
“The renovated courts have been utilized steadily by residents of all ages for serious singles and doubles matches, lessons and less formal recreational play. Additional courts would increase those opportunities,” the proposal said.

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