PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — On Monday, representatives from Roger Scott Tennis Center gave a presentation to city leaders on their dire need for renovations at the court.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said the challenge is getting the type of product they want versus what the costs are and how they are going to do that.
“We can look at really any number of ideas, but it comes down to what the council is willing to support financially,” said Robinson. “Every time we go back and re-engineer, that is money from our original outlay that we lose.”
City of Pensacola Chief Financial Director Amy Lovay said the city has rebid the desire to fix 18 hard courts at Roger Scott.
“We are talking about the 18 hard courts that are in bad and deteriorating circumstances,” said Lovay. “Sooner or later, we are going to have to close off courts for play because it’ll be too dangerous to play.”
The new, base bid would be to demolish 12 hard courts and rebuild them as post-tension concrete tennis courts, which would cost $4.5 million. There are two other options included in the improvements that include milling and overlaying an additional six courts, which would add $198,000, or mill and overlay five additional courts and rebuild one additional court, which would add $250,000.
“You can do just option one, which would rebuild the bottom 12 courts and not rebuild the top courts,” said Lavoy. “Or, you can do numbers one and two or one and three. $4.5 million would be a reasonable cost for the base and then to mill and overlay the six courts at the top would be an additional $198,000, or you mill and overlay and completely rebuild one of the courts of $250,000.”
The current total budget for the project is $2.2 million, which includes $1.3 million from Escambia County. If the city were to do only option one, they would be $2,310,000 short. If they were to do options one and two, the city would be $2,508,000 short and if they were to do options one and three, they would be $2,560,000 short.
Lavoy presented some methods that would assist with the shortfall but would not eliminate the shortfall. One would be committing $600,000 of the $800,000 fund balance in the Recreation Fund.
“If you recall, with COVID money we received, we returned $800,000 to the Recreation Fund, because at the time, we thought the Recreation Fund would be the most impacted funds that we have, because at the time, we closed many of the facilities that included recreation,” said Lavoy. “Since that time, we have opened them back up and the Recreation Fund made a remarkable recovery, but nothing was done with that $800,000.”
The next method would be to commit $200,000 of the $200,000 fund balance in the Tennis Fund.
“I will tell you that the reason we have that money available in the Tennis Fund is due to the change in the way we have managed Roger Scott,” said Lavoy. “A huge kudos to management group to generate that amount for the City of Pensacola.”
The final method would be to commit $600,000 over the next 20 years from the Tennis Fund.
“These methods would assist with the shortfall but would still leave us about a million to a million and a half short,” said Lavoy.
After the presentation, Councilwoman Sherri Myers said she was speechless, but went on to talk about several ADA violations she believes the center has.
“You need to find the money to fix all of the ADA violations over there,” Myers said.
“Not only there, but all of your other parks. This ADA issue is not going to go away. I promise you, when I am no longer on this city council, you better have a slush fund ready to deal with all of the ADA violations. You’re coming in here, asking for this kind of money. You’ve got a handicap-accessible playground that was given to the City of Pensacola by the LEAP project, well guess what, it’s never been usable by people with disabilities because it is three inches off the ground to get to the ramp and you can’t even fix that. You can’t even fix up all of the broken sidewalks over there. There’s no accessible dog parks over there and it goes on and on and on. I’m going to start going over there to that building and start measuring every poundage of force it takes to open a door at the Vickery Center and that whole complex over there. We have a police chief here who needs some type of physical presence on the north end of the city and you’re coming in here asking for that type of money? Didn’t we just give a whole bunch of money to rebuild tennis courts there? We have so many other neglected projects over there at the complex. It’s staggering to me.”Councilwoman Sherri Myers
Grover responded by saying it is staggering to him that a councilwoman would sit on the council for 12 years and not do anything.
“You want to talk about ADA issues right now? You can’t even use those hardcourts out there right now,” said Robinson. “Those places where we have ‘violations’ aren’t violations, they are noncompliant, and we don’t have to be compliant until we have a building project there. We will be happy to do a building project and make that complaint. So, this is what we’ve got. This is what it takes to be able to do that. This is a facility that we have, and we ought to take care of it.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Brahier said if they were to spend that amount of money, it needs to be inclusive, not just on one project.
“We can’t allot this kind of money to one project without making sure that others are being taken care of,” said Brahier.
Parks and Recreation Director Adrian Stills said the center’s courts are in desperate need of repair if it is going to continue to be an asset to servicing the community.
Brock Sakey, tennis director at the Roger Scott Tennis Center, said this issue is talked about a lot within the tennis community in Pensacola.
“I started management back in 2018, and when I started, we were told they were about to redo the clubhouse, putting in Pickleball and redoing the hardcourts,” said Sakey. “That was back in January 2018, be ready for construction. Since then, all we have done is try to cut costs, cut items and this most recent bid was only for 12 courts. The bid came back, and it was $4.1 million. We’ve cut, cut and cut as much as possible to try and fund as much as possible, but we are running into the issue of if we try and do six courts, what determines who gets the six good courts?”
With several different schools, organizations and charities using the courts, Sakey said it has gotten to the point where something has to be done.
“We’ve already shut down two of the hardcourts because of how unsafe they are,” said Sakey.
“We are getting ready to shut down more. At some point something has to give. We’ve put these bids out multiple times and during the course of the years we have been putting them out, costs have gone up and up. Realistically, we know this is a lot of money, but at the same time, there are thousands and thousands of people that use these courts monthly. We are a very busy facility. Anyone from five years old to 95 years old is out there playing tennis. We are really proud of what we can offer, but at the same time, if we can’t get these new courts sometime soon, I mean, people are already boycotting the facility because of the conditions of the courts. From the business side that is terrible, but from the community side, we want to put something out that we can be proud of.”Brock Sakey
Currently the tennis center pays a lease agreement with the city of $125,000. Sakey said the costs have been around $70,000, which is where the surplus of $200,000 comes from.
“When we have tournaments, that’s another source of revenue right there,” Sakey said. “We had a junior tournament a couple of weeks ago and we had 170 players. 130 of them were from out of the area, so they are staying at hotels and spending money in the restaurants. I think it’s a healthy balance of us bringing tournaments in where people are spending money locally and also offering a very safe place for people to play tennis. Right now, I can’t say that we are offering that, unfortunately.”
Sakey said the center is always trying to do community outreach, and that it is not always about the dollar signs.
“We do Special Olympics, clinics for Autism and last year we raised over $100,000 during our fundraiser,” said Sakey. “We are doing the best that we can, but at the same time, we are at the point where something has got to give, because this has been going on since before I started.”
Councilman Jared Moore brought up the question of raising court fees to bring in more money.
“That was part of the facility plans once we got the upgrades,” said Sakey. “We planned to potentially round out some of these fees and increase them a little bit. You can’t raise the cost of hard-court memberships with the quality of courts we have right now.”
Moore said he realizes this is a dire situation and they need to find a solution for it.
“Obviously, a lot of energy has gone into getting us to this point,” said Moore. “There is no denying that we’ve got a serious situation here and we have to figure out a way to solve it. There is no easy way forward. Hopefully, we can come up with a productive solution.”
For more information on the Roger Scott Tennis Center and which clinics and events are going on, click here.