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Palm Coast Tuesday, May 4, 2021 6 days ago

In 3-2 vote, City Council OKs $5.75 million regional racquet center

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Ed Danko proposed tabling the vote until a survey could be conducted and more costs analyzed.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Updated 1:56 p.m. May 5

Local tennis and racquetball players will have a new, $5.75 million facility that the city of Palm Coast hopes will attract regional tournaments as well. 

The City Council voted 3-2, in a raucous meeting May 4, to approve a contract with Gilbane Building Co. for construction of a "regional racquet center,” to be named the Palm Coast Reilly Opelka Racquet Center, that will include a clubhouse and six to 12 pickleball courts in its first phase.

A later phase will add clay tennis courts, hard tennis courts, hard junior tennis courts, a hitting wall and a stadium court for tennis and pickleball, as well as more parking and restroom facilities, according to a Palm Coast city staff document.

The facility will also partner with AdventHealth and MedNexus to create a sports medicine element. A restaurant and community space will also be added.

“This opportunity is here, and it’s now, and I’m proud to support this opportunity,” Holland said, seeing the tennis center as a natural extension of Palm Coast’s amenities and tennis legacy.

Council members Nick Klufas and Eddie Branquinho joined her in voting for the expansion, reasoning that although not all play tennis, the center’s benefit to the city is worth the expense.

Council members Victor Barbosa and Ed Danko voted against the contract.

"To spend this kind of money and seeing homeless people out there?"

VICTOR BARBOSA, City Council

Saying that he “ran on being the voice of the people,” Barbosa tallied the number of public comments, and it was 13-9 against the tennis center expansion.

“Not only that,” he continued, “to spend this kind of money and seeing homeless people out there? Something needs to be done with that money better.”

Danko preferred to wait. Why not ask the community in a survey whether they wanted the expansion He also wanted more information about maintenance costs, including staff and water costs. He proposed tabling the issue, but only had Barbosa’s support to do so.

The proposed facility will be a major upgrade to the existing Palm Coast Tennis Center on Belle Terre Parkway, which had attendance of 14,293 in the 2019 fiscal year and 17,000 in the 2020 fiscal year — an increase in numbers that corresponds with similar ones elsewhere during COVID-19. 

Reilly Opelka’s family moved to Palm Coast in 2002, and he won the junior Wimbledon Championship in 2015. At 23 years old, he has a career high ranking of 31 in the world.

“Growing up in Palm Coast, spending most of my time on those courts is something I will never forget,” he said in a video as part of the city’s presentation.

Pickleball is one of the nation's fastest-growing sports, but the city lacks dedicated pickleball courts. 

The new facility will help keep Palm Coast residents from traveling to nearby Holly Hill to play, and will attract pickleball tournaments — and with them, spending at local restaurants, stores and gas stations — to Palm Coast, according to he city staff document.

Of the total first-phase project cost of $5.75 million, 49% will be paid for with park impact fees, which can only be used for new park elements, according to the city staff document. Another 26% would come from S.R. 100 Community Redevelopment Agency money earmarked for capital projects in the S.R 100 area, 17% would come from money the city previously set aside for an expansion of the tennis center, and the final 8% would come in the form of a Tourism Development Council grant.

— Brian McMillan contributed to this report.

Milissa Holland came under pressure from a raucous crowd, as several were escorted out by security after the vote was taken. Photo by Brian McMillan

 

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