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Richmond Hill tennis community upset over indoor court closure
Reconstruction of David Hamilton Park means town loses only indoor courts for 18 months
Feb. 28, 2017
Kim Zarzour

Richmond Hill tennis players aren’t happy with a decision by the town to close their only indoor courts for the coming year while David Hamilton park is refurbished.

The $27-million construction project at 311 Valleymede Dr. will have a splash pad, second ice pad, larger fitness centre and indoor walking track. Blackmore Tennis Club, situated within the park, will be closed throughout the winter season while work is underway. 

According to a staff report, the construction site is complicated by the proximity of several schools, recreation and day camp programs and as a result, access to the park, tennis courts and arena site will be limited during the construction period.

The David Hamilton Park will be closed from March 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018; tennis courts will close May 1.

Several tennis club members presented a petition along with suggestions for keeping their courts open at last week’s committee of the whole and at the full council meeting Feb. 27.

“You are spending $27 million of our money for the town’s skaters and hockey players, at the expense of the town’s tennis playing families who lose their only facility,” said Richmond Hill resident Mariam Hamidian.

The tennis players complained of inadequate notice for feedback from the tennis community and a lack of alternate winter tennis indoor facilities in Richmond Hill; they asked councillors to seek alternate ways to continue access to the indoor tennis facility through the 2017-2018 winter season.

“Surely if skaters and hockey players can get $27 million, you can throw a few crumbs to tennis playing residents to provide temporary access to our only affordable winter facility,” Hamidian said.

It is inconceivable that the town can produce a Recreation Master Plan and Tennis Strategy acknowledging the need for more tennis courts and better collaboration and communication, then turn around and close the courts for at least 18 months, said Richmond Hill Lawn and Tennis Club President Mike Bowcott.

The new tennis strategy, released last year, calls for improvements to current facilities, construction of 12 new courts and a new indoor facility.

Bowcott said the town needs an association representing the tennis community, as there is for soccer and hockey, to communicate such decisions in a more efficient manner.

“To close the only indoor tennis courts in Richmond Hill in what appears to be an 11th-hour decision is obviously not sitting well with a number of residents.”

But suggestions presented by tennis club members to keep the doors open, including temporary fencing and alternate pathways, were dismissed by town staff.

According to Italo Brutto, commissioner of environment and infrastructure services, the 26-acre construction site will be extremely busy and congested.

Experts’ analysis warned that significant risk of injury to park users due to moving equipment and delivery and continued use by tennis players would be “neither safe nor reasonable,” Brutto said.

Shane Baker, commissioner of community services, told council the new facility in Aurora has indicated it could accommodate the 253 residents who are members of the club.