Depot Park tennis courts get patched up

The Park Rapids Tennis Association hopes to see work on the aging courts move from repairing holes in the asphalt every year to rebuilding them with more permanent concrete.

Joe Markell, a member of the Park Rapids Tennis Association, scrapes crack repair compound into a crack while Christina Avila, a member of the Park Rapids Schools grounds staff sweeps debris off the court. Behind them, school tennis coach Brianne Morris and her niece Lauren Hirt patch cracks. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

Members of the Park Rapids Tennis Association (PRTA), local school staff and friends gave the tennis courts some tender loving care Friday at Depot Park.

About a dozen people spent part of the morning scraping loose debris out of long, gaping cracks in the asphalt, sweeping the courts and applying crack repair compound in matching colors.

“We’re trying to save the courts,” said PRTA member Joe Markell, who was filling in cracks with army green goop that he said was expensive. “Every year we do this.”

School staff, including grounds crew as well as tennis coach Brianne Morris, were involved because the western four courts belong to the Park Rapids Schools, while the eastern four are city property.

Asked what she thinks about a proposed school bond referendum to repair the eight tennis courts at Century School, Morris said, “I’d be very excited because those tennis courts are really bad. We’ve got weeds growing in them. The grounds crew has to weed-whack our tennis courts. It’d be very nice to have new tennis courts.”


Morris said about 40 students in grades 6-12 are in the school tennis program. “The tennis courts are used all the time,” she said.

PRTA member Amy Cass, scraping more of the green goo into cracks in the asphalt, called herself “one of the big fans” of the game.

“I look forward to playing tennis here every day,” she said. “I usually play, probably, five times a week. It’s a great reunion for all our friends, good exercise.”

Tom Weston, also with the PRTA, said the Depot tennis courts need to be replaced.

“When we repair them like this, we do it to make them playable, and also to make them safe,” he said, pointing out the gaping holes in the courts. “We do it for the kids that play.”

Reconstruction plans

Kathy Peterson, president of the PRTA, said the association has been working with the city toward replacing the courts’ crumbling asphalt with more permanent concrete. The project is currently pegged for 2024 on the city’s capital improvement plan (CIP) at an estimated cost of $385,000.

“As prices go up,” she said, “by the time it’s done, (it may be) closer to $400,000.”

She said they are repairing all eight Depot courts, but the association is currently urging reconstruction of the four city-owned courts only. “What happens to the other four will be down the line,” she said.


With this plan in place, the city applied last winter for a 50/50 Land and Water Conservation (LAWCON) outdoor recreation grant, with federal funding administered through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The request was denied.

“It’s a very highly competitive grant – $8 million worth of requests for $3 million of grants,” said Peterson. “We knew (not getting it) was a possibility.”

She voiced interest in re-applying for the grant this winter.

Meanwhile, for the first grant attempt, the association needed to show that the courts are important to the people who use it, Peterson said. To start with, tennis association members – who, she stressed, are basically a booster club and make up only a fraction of the people who use the courts – have pledged $133,000 so far toward the local match for the project.

The association intended to take the fundraising effort to the public this spring, she said, but COVID-19 put a kibosh on that.

“We felt that with the economy as it is … it seems a bad time to be asking,” said Peterson. “But we need to, at some point. The need is there. The usage of the courts is up. The reality of it is, they’re just going to keep breaking apart and requiring maintenance.”

With the asphalt on the courts nearing 30 years of age, she said, this means “to keep them safe, we have, every year, had people on their hands and knees. Over the last 10 years, we’ve put in about $8,000 in those courts. It’s not going to get better.”

Peterson advised anyone with questions about the tennis court project to call her at 255-4098 or City Planner Andrew Mack at 237-2746. Contributions, which are tax deductible, should be made out to the City of Park Rapids and earmarked for tennis court reconstruction.


Amy Cass, with the Park Rapids Tennis Association, spreads crack repair compound Friday in one of the cracks criss-crossing the asphalt tennis courts at Depot Park. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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