A growing sport festival at Kitsilano Beach Park will not include an open adult tennis tournament this August although organizers approached the Board of Parks and Recreation last fall with the standing offer they will contribute to the cost of improving the 10 courts and one practice wall.
The Canada One Athletic Foundation and the organizers of KitsFest, a burgeoning sport festival held on the beach, will pay to resurface the public courts with Plexipave, a state-of-the-art rubberized paint, at a cost of about $40,000. Under a similar arrangement with these benefactors, the basketball courts at the same location were rejuvenated in 2007.
Ian Robertson, a two-term park board commissioner who advocates to improve sport facilities and fields, said the community will benefit from the private investment, which he called “a very generous offer,” but said tennis courts elsewhere are prioritized.
“The board has got to make its priority decisions based on needs across the city, not necessarily the group that comes with the biggest cheque,” he said.
The three-year, $8-million capital plan includes $500,000 for upgrades to courts and fields. Five Charleson Park courts atop a parkade on Moberly Road in False Creek will be upgraded by the end of this year at a cost of $350,000 to $400,000 because the three-story structure itself needs attention. The remaining cash is earmarked for half of the tennis courts at Kitsilano Beach Park, which will be levelled and painted at some point in 2011—with no guarantee they will be ready for August 2011 in time for KitsFest next summer.
In the realm of sports analogies, the 10 public tennis courts and one practice court at Kitsilano Beach Park muster some of the worst comparisons.
Some say they’re like a slushy sheet of ice that has gone too long without the sweep of a Zamboni. Others say the courts are like an over-grown soccer pitch that hasn’t been mown in months.
Either way, trainers, players and an executive with Tennis BC say the hazardous and unkempt condition neglects how much the courts are used every day.
John Gelhede rolled his ankle last summer and was on crutches for several days when he slipped on weeds growing through cracks in the asphalt. “We call them grass courts,” he said.
The southern bank of six playing areas are asphalt and the five to the north were painted green in 1990. Grass and weeds grow in cracks near the court edges and also along some service boxes and sidelines. “It’s like Wimbledon,” deadpanned Gelhede, who played at the Kits courts since 1981.
Gord Hauka runs tennis lessons through the Kitsilano Community Centre and estimates he’s coached 40,000 amateur athletes since the early ’80s at public courts in False Creek and Kitsilano.
The courts are suitable for lessons and practice but not competitive play or an open tournament, he said.
“You couldn’t do it here,” he said, noting the hazards and saying the courts are playable but not dangerous. “It’s fantastic that private interests have a real desire to improve a public facility.”
Ryan Clark, CEO of Tennis BC and an organizer with KitsFest, said the Kitsilano courts have the potential to host one of the largest tournaments in the province. The festival will hold a tournament for novice youth players but said Clark, “We would not feel comfortable with any advanced-level events on the surface.”
“With the Kits Beach atmosphere and backdrop, I am confident that a quality upgrading of the Kitsilano courts site will turn it into one of the best places to play in the country.”