Future could include expansion of Payne Park Tennis in City

Editor & Publisher

Sarasota tennis aficionados packed the Payne Park auditorium last Wednesday to meet the new Tennis Center Director Tumeka Harris, and to hear of the immediate and long range plans for the 12-court facility.

The meeting started with City of Sarasota Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Fogle emceeing the event and showing numerous slides depicting accomplished renovation work at several other city parks.

“We are excited to take Payne Park back under City control, and we are going to improve and build on the experience you already enjoy,” said Fogle.

Fogle asked the audience for suggestions and the crowd was not short in expressing its Payne Park desires.

Players said they wished to have the mud removed from the walkways, canopies installed and repaired, cold water and snacks available as well as an expansion of programming.

Other members said they want to see more parking available and suggested that the City Health Department Office as well as the existing Law Library should not be housed in the Park, and that their uses are simply incompatible.

One tennis member said that the Health Department eats up almost half of the parking and another said that in the world of online access, the Law Library is simply underused and antiquated.

Commissioner Hagen Brody was on hand and said that expanding the tennis locker room and office areas into the rest of the building is something worth exploring. He added that the Park is a true gem in the city, and that investing and expanding its presence will help the east side of the city grow its economic base and value. Brody said he has spoken with Sarasota Public School officials and there is interest in adding practice courts and training courts for students as well as possibly a center court where local and regional tournaments could be played. These suggestions were met with support and excitement.

The city closed the facility on Monday through Wednesday of last week and reopened Thursday with Harris at the helm along with Park Supervisor Mark Hamilton and a new court maintenance employee.

The City said it will not raise fees or change the hours through the end of the year and will continue to encourage user feedback as it develops its plans going forward.

On Oct. 1, the City will take back four other park properties: Centennial Park and boat ramp, Ken Thompson Park, Lawn Bowling, and the Arlington Park and Aquatic Facility.

The City has undertaken a Parks Master Plan, and that plan as well as a dedicated funding source for the care and upkeep of the parks will soon be considered by the City of Sarasota Commission.

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