Peterson corrects record on Depot Park tennis courts
The Park Rapids Tennis Association president took issue with city council comments upon rejecting all bids on the project.
The president of the Park Rapids Tennis Association (PRTA) addressed the city council July 12 to respond to council members’ recent statements about the Depot Park tennis court replacement project.
On June 28, the city council had rejected all bids in the project, which came in at $900,000 or higher, well in excess of the engineering estimate of $600,000. The proposal was to replace the current asphalt courts with post-tensioned concrete.
At that time, City Engineer Jon Olson had recommended “mov(ing) forward in a different direction that might be a lesser type of improvement,” and council member Erika Randall had remarked, “The Tennis Association may have had their sights set on something that was a little out of reach, not reflective of normal tennis courts. Hopefully, they can come back down to earth a bit and reapproach it.”
Peterson began by praising city staff for their cooperation in the project since 2018. She noted that during that period, she has worked with four different city administrators, two city treasurers, and a park manager and city planner who are no longer here.
“Needless to say, there’s been repetitive explaining what the project is and getting approval to move forward,” she said. However, she commended current administrator Angel Weasner for being “spot-on, informed, direct and (showing) wonderful leadership.”
Responding to the June 28 remarks, Peterson said she wanted “to clarify for the council and the city any misunderstanding” of the PRTA’s position on the project.
“We have not been here to ask the city to build courts for us,” she said. “We have been here to be involved and committed to build courts for the city and all the residents of the county community, other schools, summer residents, vacationers. It’s an economic plus for the city.”
Responding to Randall’s “normal tennis courts” remark, Peterson said, “Correct. They were not normal. But there’s a reason. The courts we had in the past didn’t last. Asphalt breaks down. So, we went for something that, no, has not gone in for parks in the past.”
Peterson said the outdoor sports industry is moving toward concrete for longevity.
She said current PRTA members recognize that regardless of the design, they will be gone before the courts are no longer playable. “Our efforts have been future … to reduce costs in the city for maintenance and replacement.”
Peterson said PRTA members have spent 800-1,000 volunteer hours patching the current courts, and an attempt at professional correction only made things worse. “So yes, we did not recommend what had been normal – asphalt. … We had a committee that researched different types of courts.”
She said they came up with two alternatives to asphalt – reinforced and post-tensioned concrete. The latter, she said, is “a newer method, proved to be a great surface, top quality, long lasting. … Cost the most.”
Peterson said the PRTA recommended concrete to the city, citing the good condition of the concrete pickleball courts at Heartland Park.
“The goal then was to decrease future, long-term replacement costs, like we’re dealing with right now, and intermittent, frequent repair and costs,” she said.
‘Sights set high’
In response to Randall’s comment that the PRTA had its “sights set on something that was a little out of reach,” Peterson said, “Yes. We did set our sights high, and that was to help provide the best we could, raising funds for our city’s parks now and in the future.”
She said that after talking to a Colorado contractor who worked with post-tensioned concrete, the PRTA considered its goals attainable. “The next step of the research is … we need to find out if it can happen here, because it is unusual,” she said.
Peterson noted that the PRTA raised funds from members and other donors, successfully applied for a $250,000 grant and secured a commitment from the city for up to $60,000, or 10% of the estimated project cost.
She said the PRTA did not question the size of the city’s share of the project and committed to raising the rest of the funds, which are now in a city-managed fund.
Peterson said that as of March 2021, the project as described by the city engineer was fully funded, including the grant awarded that summer. However, due to delays at the federal level, they were unable to put the project out for bid until April of this year.
“We have always been ready to go to (Plan) B, which is reinforced concrete,” said Peterson, stressing that she was at the bid opening and the discussion that followed: “That price is crazy. We go to reinforced concrete. I’ve already been working with Jon Olson. I have a committee of two or three people ready to work with him.”
Citing Randall’s suggestion to “reapproach” the project, Peterson said, “It’s been approached before it was even denied.”
She concluded by thanking all who continue to support the project and said the PRTA will continue to work with the city to accomplish it.