Tattnall Square tennis center to get some work, but no replacement

SPLOST will pay for renovation; courts already redone

jgaines@macon.comJune 6, 2014 

TattnallTennis

An Evergreen Landscaping crew digs a ditch for an irrigation line Friday outside the tennis center at Tattnall Square Park in Macon.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com Buy Photo

Half a million dollars has been spent on improving the tennis center at Tattnall Square Park in the past three years, and another $200,000 is on the way.

So far workers have removed two of the original 12 tennis courts and completely remodeled the remaining ones, including turning two adult courts into four half-size courts for small children, directly across College Street from Alexander II Magnet School. New downward-pointing lights have been installed, along with new fences and extensive landscaping. A few benches remain to be installed on new, wider sidewalks.

Work remains to be done on the building on the property, but the funding provided by the special purpose local option sales tax won’t cover a replacement.

“Everything is new. It’s like you’ve got Lexus courts next to a beat-up 1970s Chevy Chevette for your building,” said Andrew Silver, chairman of Friends of Tattnall Square Park.

Carl Hodge, Macon-Bibb County’s tennis manager, said the additional $200,000 will cover more exterior work as well as repairs to the building itself. The roof, now covered with a blue tarp, will be fixed; a wooden observation deck may go in; and $40,000 should put the interior in “pretty good shape,” he said.

“There was a huge push to get this building taken out,” Hodge said. Officials decided that wasn’t warranted, but the storm-damaged roof needs replacing and the drab-but-functional interior needs sprucing up, he said.

“I would love to have a new building. I have said this,” Hodge said.

But it’s hard to argue for spending perhaps another $500,000 on that, he said.

A park master plan originally called for a “big 40-foot sidewalk” from the College-Oglethorpe Street corner to the park’s center, where an ornamental fountain is planned, Hodge said. That would have opened a grand vista but would have meant pushing the tennis building back almost on top of the courts, he said. A compromise plan is for a 14-foot-wide sidewalk, leaving the building where it is, Hodge said.

Silver says the building is in bad enough shape that it needs to be replaced altogether. The foundation is separating from the floor, causing a “sewage smell” in the restrooms that he said he has been told will only get worse.

Hodge said there is some separation in a restroom, but it’s been pretty much unchanged for a decade.

The nationwide recession caused maintenance on public facilities to be put off in Macon-Bibb County as it was in many places around the country, he said. Now SPLOST funds are helping to catch up, but that takes time, Hodge said.

Bibb County voters approved a $190 million SPLOST in November 2011, and nearly $39 million is dedicated to recreation-related projects.

The original request for Tattnall Square Park was $3 million, but that got knocked down to $500,000, all for the tennis center, Silver said. Of the 19 parks that got SPLOST funding, just two small ones received less than Tattnall, he said.

Of the $500,000 earmarked for Tattnall Square, $475,188 has been spent, and there’s $219,438 left, once the most recent transfer of funds is included, according to the most recent SPLOST financial report from May 31.

The $500,000 allocation was based only on a vague idea of what would be needed, said Clay Murphey, SPLOST project manager, so money is being shifted to Tattnall from other SPLOST projects that came in under budget.

“That could include an observation deck out there, some additional benches. There’ll be some work on some sidewalks,” he said. “That is what the mayor has told me he wants done.”

Friends of Tattnall Square Park has put thousands of hours of volunteer work into areas of the park other than the tennis center, funded by private donations and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Silver said. Money from the state, Mercer University and Macon-Bibb County is redoing the College Street frontage, he said.

“We’re awfully close to completing the master plan for the park for the first time in 100 years,” Silver said. “There’s one thing standing in the way, and that’s the old tennis building.”

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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