Saying lower rates could increase use of a public facility that’s seen a decline in interest, town officials last week voted unanimously to recommend a new slate of fees for Mead Park tennis permits.
Parks & Recreation Commissioner Steve Haberstroh, a member of the appointed body’s Tennis Committee, said the reduced fees and introduction of a new type of permit for non-residents are part of a multi-pronged approach to reinvigorating interest in tennis in New Canaan. Officials also pare planning to create new and better programming at Mead Park tennis courts, he said during the Commission’s March 13 meeting.
Haberstroh noted that officials must have clean data on facility use in hand in order to make decisions about the courts—for example, whether some of them should be re-purposed.
“We want a robust tennis program and so we’ve started to do work understand what is going on,” Haberstroh said during the meeting, held at Town Hall.
“What is really important is tracking,” he said. “We really need to understand the usage of our tennis courts because it is a cost to town and, you know, it’s a great asset but we want to make sure it is being utilized.”
Specifically, Haberstroh said, attendants on site at Mead should walk through the courts to ensure that all of those using them are permit-holders who have registered to do so, and the town should move away from a cash payment system for guests and toward an electronic platform that would improve tracking.
Here’s a look at the new slate of fees, which must be approved by the Board of Selectmen prior to taking effect for the upcoming season:
Proposed Mead Park Tennis Permit Fees
|Type||2018 Fee||2019 Proposed Fee|
*Non-resident permits will be limited to 100 total issued.
Those voting in favor of the new slate included Haberstroh as well as Commissioners Matt Konspore, Jack Hawkins, Hank Green, Laura Costigan, Francesca Segalas, Sally Campbell, Doug Richardson, Rona Siegel, Carl Mason and Gene Goodman.
Campbell noted that the 50 percent reduction in the price of youth permits is recommended because the town sold only eight of them last summer.
“So just by getting 16 youths, we break even,” she said. “We think lowering the fees will end up propelling more people to sign up, which is the goal.”
Parks & Rec officials have said in the past that a severe delay in preparing the courts last summer led to a sharp decline in their use. This year, Haberstroh said, all eight clay courts are expected to be ready in early May.
According to Haberstroh, after collecting data on court usage this summer, the Commission should have a much better idea by the end of the year of what to do, “so we can be responsible with the amount of funds used to support the tennis program.”
“We really feel like we need some good data before we make recommendations, because the courts are beautiful,” he said. “We really want them to be used.”
Costigan asked whether it would be possible to enable people to put in for tennis permits online.
Recreation Director Steve Benko said that while the town can snail-mail people a pass, they must come into the office to apply for them because the permit itself includes a photo.
Campbell said that Waveny Pool users have asked for the same convenience of obtaining permits online “and maybe that is something we can look at.”
Hawkins asked whether the increasingly popular game pickle ball could be played at some Mead Park tennis courts.
Campbell said such a recommendation would have to follow this summer of data-gathering on court usage. She called for Benko to give tennis court attendants more specific instructions on enforcement of the Mead Park facility’s rules and regulations during their training.
Though commissioners noted that some tennis players in New Canaan can only get to the courts at Mead at night, Benko said infrastructure work would be required to install enough lights to illuminate the facility sufficiently. Campbell said that if “real demand” for evening tennis were demonstrated, the Commission could request additional lighting during next budget season.
As it is, the courts are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Benko said, and with the lights in place now, two courts can be kept open until 9 p.m.