New Canaan has seen a dramatic decline in the number of residents purchasing passes for the tennis courts at Mead Park, according to officials who now want to consider alternate uses for some of them.
Members of the Parks & Recreation Commission said Wednesday night that while residents purchased some 400 passes a dozen years ago to play on the clay courts at Mead, that number declined to about 300 from 2012 to 2015, then 147 last year and just 112 this season, whose opening was delayed due to a contractor’s failure.
“They have dropped by two-thirds almost,” Commission Chair Sally Campbell said during the group’s regular meeting, held at Latham Community Center. “So it appears there is not real heavy usage of the courts anymore. So we were thinking we have a little group some committee members who are going to look at what would be best thing to do with those courts. We definitely keep the Har-Tru courts but do we need eight of them?”
She referred to the eight clay courts at Mead—the ninth court is a pure hard surface.
Ideas for converting some number of clay courts—themselves more expensive for the town to keep up—include painting permanent “Pickleball” lines, creating year-round all-purpose courts, box lacrosse, roller hockey and basketball.
Campbell said: “My idea is to make one beach volleyball because that would be awesome and kids would love to play that.”
Commissioner Carl Mason and Recreation Director Steve Benko are to gather ideas and return to the full body, Campbell said.
Commissioner Laura Costigan asked whether the newer courts at New Canaan High School may be drawing some tennis player away from Mead Park. She noted that the courts recently were resurfaced, had an additional court installed and that nobody needs a pass there. (A pass at Mead Park costs $115 for adults, $70 for seniors and $50 for kids, with a $5 daily guest fee.)
Parks Department Superintendent John Howe said that, anecdotally, the courts at the high school seem to be getting high regular use.
“I think you are right,” he told Costigan.
Campbell said the Commission would try to pull together ideas for the courts at Mead ahead of its capital budget request for next fiscal year.