Martina Fee was no doubt smiling behind that coronavirus-fighting face mask she wore to Friday’s Warren Fiscal Court meeting.
One of the leaders of the Southern Kentucky Tennis Association that has been pushing since 2018 to get an indoor tennis center built in Bowling Green, Fee was able to see her work come to fruition at the meeting in the Warren County Courthouse.
Fittingly, it was a love match as the magistrates voted 6-0 to approve the $8,284,240 bid of Bowling Green’s Scott, Murphy and Daniel construction company to build a center of about 60,000 square feet attached to the existing gymnasium at Buchanon Park. It was the lowest of four bids received.
Plans call for the structure to have six indoor tennis courts, four racquetball courts, an indoor playground and meeting rooms in addition to six more outdoor tennis courts. It will also have the capability of converting some of the tennis space to basketball or volleyball and putting down turf for indoor football or soccer.
It was a dream come true for Fee and a handful of other SOKY Tennis members who were at the meeting.
“I started this thing two years ago,” said Fee. “I’m thrilled for the local tennis community and for the potential this gives us for exposing the youth of Warren County to tennis.”
For much of those two years it may have seemed that indoor tennis wouldn’t happen in Bowling Green, particularly after a study by the Nashville-based Lose & Associates consulting firm last year estimated the price of an eight-court facility at $18.3 million.
Recalling that price, Fourth District Magistrate Rex McWhorter said: “I was thinking we shouldn’t do this right now, but now I think it is the thing to do.”
A combination of re-working the facility to have multi-sport capabilities and the current low interest rates made the project palatable to the magistrates.
“I like the multi-purpose aspect of it,” said First District Magistrate Doug Gorman. “We can take care of the tennis community and the general public.
“We’ll be able to do it with bonding, and (County Treasurer) Greg Burrell thinks this is something we can do. I’m comfortable that we can cover the obligations and not put the county at risk.”
Burrell said the timing couldn’t be better for doing such a project. He said the county could finance the project over a period of 20 to 25 years at an interest rate below 2%.
“We have historically low interest rates,” he said. “It’s so much better to do this now. Interest rates are only going to go up, and construction costs will probably go up as well.”
County Parks and Recreation Department Director Chris Kummer said having a tennis facility of this size will allow Bowling Green to hold U.S. Tennis Association tournaments that can boost the local economy.
In his presentation to the magistrates, Kummer said he estimates the operational costs for the facility at $479,000 for the first year because of initial staffing and equipment needs. He expects that to drop below $400,000 per year after the first year.
Kummer also reported that the SOKY Tennis Association has lined up $25,000-per-year sponsorships for four of the six tennis courts and $5,000 sponsorships for two of the racquetball courts.
“They’re working to try to secure a title sponsor and the other court sponsorships,” Kummer said. “We feel that within a 12-month period we can get those sponsors.”
Kummer expects construction of the facility to take “11 to 12 months.” Once it’s completed, Fee said, local youth and adult tennis players will have a much more convenient option for playing the sport than what they have now.
“For years we’ve been going to Nashville, Louisville or Owensboro to play indoors,” she said. “Now we’ll be able to play year-round in Bowling Green. This will give our youth tennis players a big boost.”
Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon also sees many benefits from having the tennis and multi-purpose facility.
“This is a quality-of-life feature that can help our community thrive and grow,” he said.
While the indoor tennis center is moving forward, another possible sports facility studied by Lose & Associates remains on hold.
The consulting firm estimated a price tag of $25.9 million for a two-rink ice facility, which would also carry high annual operational costs.
Burrell said it isn’t feasible to build the ice rink now, and he said it will require a partnership similar to that of the Ford Ice Centers near Nashville, which partner with the Nashville Predators National Hockey League team.
In addition to the tennis facility, the magistrates gave final approval to a rezoning that will lead to a large residential development in the Alvaton area and approved a number of spending items.
The magistrates passed the second and final reading of a rezoning that clears the way for a 45-acre, 167-lot subdivision in the Alvaton community that met with some resistance when the City-County Planning Commission considered it last month.
After hearing objections about the density of the development and possible traffic problems from residents near the Old Scottsville Road site, the planning commission voted 8-2 on July 2 to recommend for approval the subdivision being put together by developer Michael Vitale and his newly formed VISAAC LLC.
Among the spending items approved were:
- $19,995 to AlertSense for the yearly contract for the electronic notification system.
- $6,815 to Mid-America Sports Advantage for splash shields to be used for football helmets due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- $4,437.80 to P & P Telecommunications for a second secured entry to the administration building at Basil Griffin Park, made necessary by the pandemic.
- $1,888.89 to Young’s Electric, Heating & Cooling for repairs to a generator used at some of the coronavirus testing sites.
- $1,549.99 to Staples for the purchase of a kiosk to be used to take temperatures of people entering the courthouse.
- $93,000 to accept the lowest bid from Pro Lawn and Landscape for a two-year contract to do all weekly mowing, trimming, spraying, shrub pruning, weed removal, trash collection and debris cleanup at county parks.
- $15,392 to McPeak Plumbing for faucet replacement throughout county parks due to the pandemic.
- $21,978 to Caveland Environmental to provide sanitizing and portable hand-washing stations at county parks due to the pandemic.