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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 7 years ago

Couples make Public Tennis Center a success

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

The new 1,750-square-foot Longboat Key Public Tennis Center building made its soft debut in December, just in time for the U.S. Tennis Association National Senior Clay Courts Tournament. But on Sunday, Feb. 28, the town will dedicate the building to John Mrachek, Dick Schlorf and their families, in recognition of the fact that, without their vision, public tennis on Longboat Key might never have come to fruition.

In 1992, the Town Commission approved a request from Arvida Corp. to trade rights to develop a residential complex in exchange for the land, site plan and money to build a public tennis center. The plans created controversy, but the commission chose to move forward as long as residents showed interest. When the town asked for down payments of $100 from interested members, about 330 people submitted deposits.

The plan met with resistance, first because the town deemed the site plan incomplete, and, then, because it didn’t comply with zoning codes or the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

By June 1995, plans for the tennis center were dead, not because of opposition, but as the result of high construction bids. But in May 1996, Schlorf and Mrachek submitted a proposal to the town to build a six-to-eight-court public tennis center at Civic Grove with private funds, posing no financial risk to the town, and formed Longboat Key Public Tennis Center Inc.

“We’ve raised half the approximately $500,000 needed on handshakes,” Schlorf told the commission at the time.

Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said that their commitment helped to re-ignite debate about public tennis by offering private funds and negating lawsuit possibilities.

“The starting point was when they were willing to spend their own money to make it happen,” St. Denis said.
The offer was approved, and the town reached a compromise to build and run the facility using town money and staff.

And, by the end of November 1998, the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center opened its courts with Mrachek as manager. According to St. Denis, Mrachek began as a 40-hour-per-week employee, but later cut his hours to 20, and then to part-time seasonally to save the Tennis Center money. But Mrachek, St. Denis said, still spends as much time at the Tennis Center as any employee.

Mrachek and Schlorf, however, credit the facility’s many supporters with making it a success.

“ … this great facility didn’t happen because two families got together way back when,” they said in a joint prepared statement. “Rather, because of the vision and support of current and past commissions, the efforts of the town manager, the ongoing support of every single one of the tennis players at the center, the countless volunteers who gave of their time and monies, and, finally, to the entire Tennis Center staff whose incredible commitment has made the tennis center what it is today.”

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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