Tennis players in our neighborhood have it rough, to say the least. This year, the cost for the mandatory permit to play on public courts in New York City doubled from $100 to $200 (or from $7 to $15 an hour per person). Given the seasons, the permit is really only useful during half the year – the warm months, usually from April until October. Adding insult to injury to users of McCarren Park’s courts, the combination of harsh winter weather and a lack of maintenance leaves the courts in terrible shape when summer finally rolls around.
Now it looks like Greenpoint and Williamsburg tennis aficionados just might catch a break. At the March 8th Community Board 1 meeting, the Parks Department proposed putting a bubble over the McCarren Park tennis courts during the off-season, from mid-October to April. This new bubble would preserve the court’s condition for the regular season and allow play during the winter months for a fee, which, although not yet set, would probably range from $40-45 dollars per group of players.
Parks plans to issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) to interested concessionaires once they get approval from the Community Board. Similar to the model employed at other locations, such as Prospect Park, the concessionaire would build and run the tennis facility for 15 years, while giving a cut of the profits back to the city.
“We have received a number of requests from the community to put out an RFP for the bubbling of the tennis courts at McCarren Park,” said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey. “Doing so would ensure maintenance of the courts, and allow them to be used year round. We have met with the Community Board to discuss this possibility, and look forward to receiving their input.”
In addition to adding the bubble, the RFP includes the installation of lights on the courts to extend playing time during warm months. There would also be an allotted time, roughly 8 -15 hours a week, which the operator will donate to a group within the community, most likely children.
The McCarren Tennis Association, who last year, without help from the city, rallied to get a $50,000 grant from the United States Tennis Association and American Express to renovate the McCarren courts, are huge supporters of the bubble. Sean Hoess, the organization’s founder, points out one of the economic benefits, “The city has made the public fees so high it might actually be cheaper to play in the dome.”
Arthur Bobko, a member of the Polish American Sports Association, has been spearheading the bubble-building effort among neighborhood businesses. A tennis coach at Manhattan College who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, he is fed up with having to travel to other neighborhoods to play. “We spend money somewhere else instead of going to our park,” he said. He also feels that the bubble would be a gigantic step forward not just for tennis lovers, but the community at large. “It’s going to be great for the kids because they don’t have anything to do in Greenpoint in the winter.”
Hoess admits that there may be a negative to the bubble. There would be no more playing outside on those random nice days late in the fall or early spring. “The public tennis season will be a little shorter. Now you will have to pay,” he said. “On the other hand, as we all know, most of the winter days you can’t play, so now you’ll have an opportunity.”