Advantage Shakopee? Group lobbies for indoor tennis

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2013 - 2:01 PM

The Shakopee Tennis Association serves up a plan for public indoor courts, a rarity in south-metro areas.

Efforts are underway to develop a public indoor tennis facility in Shakopee, a community amenity that currently isn’t available for what proponents say is a growing number of players.

The City Council earlier this year lent its support to a plan by the Shakopee Tennis Association. The association would raise funds from donors throughout the community for a facility that would be built on land that the association would lease from the city for a nominal fee. The nonprofit association has estimated that the building would cost $4 million to $5 million.

The tennis association already has done its own market study documenting the need for public indoor courts. Now it’s in the process of hiring an outside consultant to prepare an independent feasibility study that it hopes will be ready by next spring.

“We want it to match up with our internal review, and if it doesn’t, we may have to rethink the business model that we presented to the city,” said Dave Forbes, president of the association.

Financial projections by the group show steadily increasing profits for an indoor facility after a small operating loss in the first year. Forbes said the estimates are conservative and are based on court usage rates of about 65 percent — far lower than the average usage rates at other public indoor tennis courts in the Twin Cities.

“We did that to show that we could have a slow start and not be a burden to the city or the county or our donors going forward,” Forbes said.

Susan Allen, who coaches boys’ and girls’ tennis at Shakopee High School, said an indoor facility “would help tremendously” to support both high school and junior programs. She said the travel time now to public indoor courts can run 30 minutes each way. Allen also said that having a facility in Shakopee could keep young players together and build team unity.

The tennis association provides summer adult and youth programs on outdoor courts and has seen rapid growth in participants in the last several years. Forbes said about 500 kids from 4 to 18 years old take part in the programs and come from all parts of the metro area.

But there’s a shortage of indoor courts, not just for kids but for adults, including seniors, he said. The closest private indoor facilities are in Eden Prairie, Chaska and Chanhassen, according to Jamie Polley, Shakopee’s parks and landscape director.

“It’s a pretty ambitious project,” said Fred Jurewicz, a Shakopee resident who formerly headed the metrowide Senior Tennis Players Club. The club has about 1,400 members age 50 and older, with some members in their 90s, he said.

“I’m sure a lot of the members that are south of the river would take advantage of it,” Jurewicz said of the proposed indoor facility.

Forbes said the association believes there’s a need for a less-expensive public facility. “There are very few in the Twin Cities, none of them located close to Shakopee,” he said. The association’s proposal calls for the new facility to be operated by a management company it would hire.

In addition to eight indoor courts, the group also would like to install eight outdoor lighted courts. The building would house activity space for seniors citizens, after-school rooms for enrichment programs and a computer lab.

“A big part of our plan is to incorporate other community services,” said Forbes. That’s consistent with the association’s philosophy, which doesn’t focus on turning out star players but “producing well-rounded kids who also know how to play tennis,” he said.

The group has focused on Shutrop Park, which is undeveloped, as a likely site. Polley told the council earlier this year that the city has no immediate plans to develop the park.

The group has said it might need a few years to raise the funds for the project. Forbes said it has had “very preliminary” discussions with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community about its possible interest in donating funds.

He expects the group to contact area foundations and businesses, including companies like Emerson Process Management Rosemount, Datacard Group and Shutterfly, which are in the process of adding facilities in Shakopee.

“Our goal will be to find two or three very large donors,” Forbes said.

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