'There has been no study into real demand for expansion.'
Throughout 2021, city residents will continue to hear more about the proposed expansion of the Palm Coast Tennis Center to add new pickleball courts and other facilities – with an up-front budget of a not so inconsequential $5,725,000.
Amid a pandemic, and with plenty of families struggling, this spending would be ludicrous, wasteful and would highlight the city’s political tone deafness.
It will be hard to convince the public there is strong support for this expansion, much less the necessary demand to justify such an exorbitant expenditure.
Based on the report authored by the Regional Racquet Center Advisory Council cited in the Palm Coast City Council’s Workshop Agenda from March 9, 2021:
The city plans to move forward despite an exploratory process and survey questions heavily biased toward the favorability and inevitability of the facility’s expansion. And, there has been no study into real demand for expansion.
How many new players or tournaments annually is the facility expected to draw?
How much new revenue would be expected for the city?
How many permanent new jobs might be created?
Have residents been consulted about the potential for increased noise and traffic to the directly adjacent neighborhoods?
If the answer to all these questions is a net zero, the city would be subsidizing this expansion for a yet unknown number of residents who would take advantage of use.
In addition, it could quickly become a permanent deficit source for the city. Phase 1 has been budgeted at $5.7 million, with unknown maintenance costs to the city beyond then. Phase 2 is more mysterious, with an unknown cost and timeline.
Three sparsely attended public input meetings about the matter were held Jan. 13, 20 and 27, and included a combined total of 82 attendees. Similar low response rates and other scientific flaws have plagued Palm Coast’s online surveys when residents were asked about the issue.
I give credit to the city for seeking citizen input, but this shaky justification is hardly a mandate for such an expenditure in a city with an estimated population of 94,080. What’s more, the report also notes the committee was weighted toward “both city employees, tennis and pickleball ambassadors in the community.” The group considered a wide range of issues but failed to consider the opinions of the majority of Palm Coast residents who will never step inside the facility and are expected to foot the bill for this taxpayer-funded boondoggle.
Casey C. Cheap