By Meg Dickens
Locals have heard a lot about Cunningham Park and the tennis courts housed there in the last few years. The courts closed because of poor conditions and are currently being transformed into something the public can use. Despite this development, the tennis court revitalization project is still underway. That means the new pickleball courts and outdoor game area for shuffleboard will cease to exist, at least in its current capacity.
As most people know, the Hometown Service Coalition (HSC) unofficially promised to finish the courts by when schools were back in session. Work officially started on Wednesday, July 21. According to HSC Vice President and Chief Legal Officer J.C. Lowe, the project is almost finished but hit a minor snag related to the old posts. After that, the main thing left is to paint the lines.
In the meantime, plans are moving forward with the tennis court project. The project started with the Johnson County Tennis Association (JCTA), which has since dissolved. Its former director, Paul Maulden, approached the Mountain City Council for approval to pre-apply for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund (LPRF). Said grant would require a 50 percent match from the city, equaling around $105,000.
“The Hometown Service Coalition knows that what they’re doing is just temporary,” City Mayor Jerry Jordan informed the aldermen. “If this becomes available, it’s going to be a tennis court.”
Lowe confirmed that this is a temporary project. HSC’s work reportedly costs far less and provides an “interim facility” for entertainment during the space between projects. If there is enough public interest in pickleball when the tennis project does officially break ground, he suggests finding a new spot for the sport. When asked about the project, Lowe said that the organization wants to help the community in any way it can.
“We’re working with the city in any way we can to improve the area,” Lowe explained. “As a society in 2021, we need to focus on working together a little bit better. It could make a world of difference.”
The City Council approved Maulden’s request 4-1, with Alderman Dustin Shearin opposing, because it is “not fiscally responsible” and the public lacks the interest in comparison to other projects.
“Currently, we’re not guaranteed any of that $105,000 that we’re going to have to come up with,” Shearin explained. “If we approve this tonight, there’s going to be a media storm on why we’re approving $105,000 when the majority of the people in this city want to see a pool. I do not feel that it’s prudent or fiscally responsible to even pre-allocate $105,000 that says it’s being provided out of city funds.”
All parties agreed that the city pool is the priority where funding is involved. At this point, the approval is only to apply and reportedly “puts nothing at risk.” The city will hear back in approximately a year whether or not the grant will be approved and then decide whether to accept the financial responsibility. For more information on the Mountain City government, visit mountaincitytn.org.