By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
Could adding more courts be Decatur’s ace for attracting tennis tournaments? That is what local parks and tourism leaders are banking on.
“We knew more courts would open the door for more tournaments, and that is what we presented to the City Council,” said Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Tom Chappell.
The pitch worked.
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$160,000 Huntsville Mortgage:$633/mo. No Credit Check-FREE Quotes! Last month, the City Council approved $142,986 from the capital budget to add courts to the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center at Point Mallard Park.
And the decision is paying off for the city.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced Decatur, Montgomery and Mobile would share hosting duties for the 1A to 5A state tennis championships from 2011-13.
The city will hold the 1A to 3A tournament in 2011, the 5A tournament in 2012 and the 4A tournament in 2013, said Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau President Tami Reist.
“We would not have been able to secure this at all without these extra courts,” Reist said. “We had to have courts in order for us to take on this role.”
To host the 6A championship, the AHSAA requires tennis complexes to house 24 courts.
“We were told if we had more courts we would probably be able to take on more important roles,” Reist said.
Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dunlap said the capital funds will build four courts at the tennis center, which features 12 hard courts, four clay courts and two indoor courts.
Construction on the courts, located northwest of the existing courts, will begin in four to six weeks and be complete by early spring, in time for the tournament.
According to Reist, 12 teams of boys and 12 teams of girls will attend the two-day state high school championships. And with them will come fans and family members, many staying in Decatur’s hotels and eating at the city’s restaurants.
Four years ago, hosting the state high school tennis championship seemed an unlikely dream for the center, which at the time featured six outdoor courts.
Officials credited Tennis Pro Tommy Wade and financial backing from the City Council for the turnaround.
In 2006, the council budgeted more than $1 million for the construction of 12 courts and a tennis building.
Since Wade’s arrival in 2004, the expansion of the center and the addition of the building and the bubble, which encloses two courts, Decatur has lured high school and college tournaments. In the past two years, the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center hosted the 6A state championship, the 1A to 3A state championship and tournaments for the Alabama Community College Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
With the four extra courts, Decatur is lobbying to be one of the top tennis centers in the region.
“These courts will definitely open more doors for us as far as hosting more tournaments, in the future,” Reist said.
Along with enticing tournaments, the courts will serve the growing local tennis population.
“The courts are filled up during the evenings and weekends,” Chappell said. “We needed these courts to help get more tournaments as well as serve the community.”