Horry County Schools and the City of Conway are working to move closer to an agreement on what to do about tennis courts in the area, this time discussing locating new courts at Collins Park instead of Conway Recreation Center.
The Horry County School Board facilities committee discussed the issue Monday night, and HCS coordinator of planning Joe Burch that during the city’s budget retreat, the city discussed putting $400,000 toward a three-phase expansion of the crowded tennis court area at the park.
“They (the City of Conway) are actively pursuing partnership with HCS and with the United States Tennis Association to offset the cost for development,” Burch said.
Currently they are perusing a phased plan for development, which calls for putting two additional courts at Collins Park in the first phase, demolishing some older buildings and possibly adding two more courts.
Council is calling for hard courts, not clay, according to Burch.
Facilities committee chairman Neil James expressed concern about Collins Park not being as close to the school as the Conway Recreation Center.
Mark Wolfe, director of facilities, said they are in the process of negotiating with a sports design firm, and a recommendation from the design firm will be brought before the board during its first meeting in April.
Burch felt it might be beneficial to wait until the sports design report is back, so they can meet with the city with full details of what the costs to redo courts at Conway High is, versus what a possible partnership will cost.
School Board Chairman Ken Richardson said he is disappointed that the courts might not be located at the Conway Recreation Center, saying he is concerned that the Collins Park courts will eventually be used by the school, for junior lessons and tournaments and will leave out the “regular Joe” who wants to play tennis, especially if the city goes back to requiring memberships for court use.
“Tennis can be an expensive sport,” Richardson said. “My only concern would be if you take Collins Park from the general public [and have] the school and city using it. The city at some point might get back into the membership thing. At some point where does the average guy go?”
Taylor Newell, city spokesperson, said nothing has been set in stone yet regarding a location, any possible partnership details or costs.
Newell said representatives from the Conway tennis community gave a proposal to the city council Monday to address what they said are their short-term and long-term needs.
The proposal suggests the city immediately remove pickle ball nets, fill any holes and repaint the lines on the fourth court at Collins Park, then add pickle ball lines to the back two courts.
They also want a sign added that reserves a minimum of two courts Monday through Friday from 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. for the junior program, leaving the other two courts available to others on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Long term, the group repeated its desire for a partnership between the city, the school district, S.C Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Tennis Association to build a 12-court facility including hard and clay courts.
The facility, they said, should include a clubhouse with a small pro shop and restrooms, and should be run by Punsisi Dayaratne and Natalie Wall.
“They have been instrumental in resurrecting the Conway Tennis program and they are 100 percent responsible for the growth…in the adult and junior instructional programs,” the proposal said.
The group proposes that Dayaratne and Wall be responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the facility, courts, grounds and restrooms. They also suggest the city provide a front desk staff member to answer phones and work in the clubhouse.
City council will continue to discuss the possible partnership in the coming weeks.