No Love Match for Court Upgrade



With city officials still refusing to kick in any more money, the school district pushed ahead with plans Tuesday to improve the aging high-school tennis courts with an expensive upgrade for greater longevity.

Both school and city officials presented competing versions of how to clean up the courts in a joint-use meeting. Maintaining and improving the courts has been delayed since 2008 due to various disagreements and sporadic negotiations between the two groups.

School district estimates have escalated to $2.2 million to renovate five courts at the high school with stabilizing post-tension slabs that reduce surface cracking. One court is already outfitted with the more durable improvements. Adding the slabs, however, triggers review by a state-approved architect group and requires American Disabilities Act improvements.

The city agreed to pay 70 percent of an initially estimated $620,000 to repair the courts, which are used by both residents and students. That was before costs to put in post-tension slabs exceeded those original estimates by more than three times, which the city maintains was not part of the original agreement.

City officials now maintain the courts can be refurbished without installing the more costly post-tension slabs, thus avoiding the ancillary ADA costs and requirements, including lowering the incline of a wheelchair ramp and adding a shade screen.  Deputy City Manager Ben Siegel stated that renovating the courts by repairing cracks, resurfacing and then adding a textured court coating would cost $640,000.

At the meeting Tuesday, Mayor Elizabeth Pearson asked City Manager John Pietig if the initial estimate included installing post-tension slabs under the courts. Pietig confirmed that it did. City officials previously stated that the city’s capital improvement budget did not include more funding for the courts.

The total job is estimated at $2.15 million and includes new lighting on two courts and a shade shelter, said landscape architect Arash Isadi of Irvine-based company LPA, hired to design the courts. The post-tension slabs include fitting the courts with a crisscross network of steel cables that can be tightened to prevent the concrete from expanding and cracking.  To accommodate the improvements, the courts will be raised by about six inches, which subjects it to state and federal requirements and higher costs.

If the city accepted the new estimate with post-tension slabs, its 70-percent share would amount to $1.5 million.

From 60 to 100 students use the courts to practice and compete from 3 to 8 p.m. daily, pointed out resident Michelle Jaeger, who noted that the United States Tennis Association will not certify courts that are not equipped with the post-tension apparatus. She described herself as “livid” after reading the city’s report, particularly the decision to remove the shade canopy.

Resident Tijana Hamilton presented overhead slides of the high school courts, which show no evidence of cracking on the court equipped with post-tension cables. “Quit stringing us along,” Hamilton said, urging both groups to upgrade the courts.

Given student usage, council member Toni Iseman suggested reversing the ratio, with the city paying 30 percent of the cost. But both school board member Theresa O’Hare and the city manager said statistics show the public is the predominate user of the courts.

Resident and engineer Paul Hamilton disagreed with the city’s repair strategy, saying concrete lacks tensile strength and cracks easily.  He added that sandblasting and resurfacing are minor solutions, like repainting a house, and don’t address structural needs.

“It’s not just a paint job,” maintained Siegel, noting that there were no underlying soil issues that would require post-tension slabs at the high school. The city’s recommendation also includes replacing the fencing and repairing the retaining wall on Park Avenue, but would eliminate lighting two more courts, the shade structure and lowering the incline of the access ramp.

Apart from the high school courts, there are 12 public courts in town, including six at Alta Laguna Park that have post-tension slabs due to underlying soils conditions, according to the city’s report.  Each court is resurfaced every three years at $3,000 per court. Disrepair at the high school courts is due to lack of maintenance, the report says.

The school district intends to seek repair bids after the state architect group provides more specific information, loosely expected in June. If the city agrees to contribute additional funding or the district finds another source, completion of the improvements is expected by November.  Students will practice at alternative sites around the city until then.

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