Longboat Key Public Tennis Center Manager John Mracheck says his staff is “holding its breath” in the hopes the new tennis center building will be functional in time for two back-to-back tournaments in December.
The Longboat Key Town Commission approved a site plan amendment to the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center last year for a $732,000 project that includes a larger 1,750-square-foot tennis building/pro shop.
Besides creating retail space, the new building will provide a larger check-in space for tennis players, more office space, larger restroom facilities and a tennis observation viewing deck.
Although the commission budgeted $732,000 for the project, lower bids will most likely make the projected cost $584,144, or $147,856 cheaper than the project’s original cost estimate.
The town is funding the project, but the intent is to use Sarasota County infrastructure surtax monies to pay back the town.
The two-story building is already looming over the town’s U.S. Post Office location on Bay Isles Road, and construction workers are working to finish the building as soon as possible.
“Our goal and the town’s goal is to make every effort to get the facility not completely done, but done at least to the point where we can utilize portions of the building and the reconfigured parking lot by Dec. 1,” Mracheck said.
The improved tennis center is set to host the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Senior Clay Courts Tournament Dec. 2. It’s the fourth time the clay-court tournament has been held at the tennis center and the first time the event is deemed a national event.
And, the following week, the tennis center will host the 10th anniversary of The Observer Challenge, a team-tennis tournament sponsored by The Longboat Observer.
Mracheck said the town hopes the major aspects of the project will be complete before the clay-court tournament.
“Only the landscaping and teaching court will not be finished,” Mracheck said.
The tennis center’s new outdoor viewing deck is scheduled to be complete this week.
If the new building cannot be utilized in time for the tournaments, Mracheck said a plan is in place to organize and operate the tournament out of the makeshift trailer that his staff currently uses.
But Public Works Director Juan Florensa is hopeful plan B will never have to be utilized.
“We are hoping to be completely finished and ready for the tournament,” Florensa said.
HISTORY OF THE PUBLIC TENNIS CENTER
The Longboat Key Public Tennis Center, 590 Bay Isles Road, opened in November 1998 on 2.3 acres of land that Arvida donated to the town.
The tennis center has grown from approximately 300 cardholders who pay $300 per year, or $450 per family, to more than 400 cardholders who pay $550 a year, or $750 per family.
Rates increased last year for the first time since 2005 to pay for the addition of four courts. The tennis center has grown from six courts to 10 courts and will add an additional teaching court this winter as part of the new project.
The tennis center has three full-time employees and eight part-time employees.
The new tennis center building will replace the current 280-square-foot Longboat Key Public Tennis Center office and check-in building, which tennis officials and players have said is too cramped.
The project also includes 31 additional parking spaces.