Controversial Tennis Center Renovation Back in Anaheim Budget

Tennis players at the Anaheim Tennis Center.

Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

Tennis players at the Anaheim Tennis Center.

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A controversial tennis center renovation that was pulled from the Anaheim budget in 2013 after sparking outrage among Latino activists and Mayor Tom Tait has found its way back into this fiscal year’s budget.

The privately run Anaheim Tennis Center and Wagner House is already home to several courts, a lounge area with hardwood floors, large windows and a stone fireplace with an ornate mantle. The $6.4 million renovation budgeted in 2013 would have added “lockers, showers and restrooms… and a new historically-themed outdoor garden for social gatherings” and a tournament level center court with permanent seating, according to budget documents and city staff.

The project, however, was pulled from the budget  after the activists and Tait said it was evidence of how the council majority was tone deaf to the needs of the city’s Latino residents, who makeup more than half the city’s population. Tennis isn’t a popular sport among Latinos, they noted.

But now it’s back, and the price tag has jumped 23 percent to $7.9 million.

Tait said in an emailed statement that the money being spent on the tennis center should go toward acquiring “desperately needed” parkland for neighborhoods. He also pointed out that the tennis center is already in great shape and isn’t free to residents.

“I’m surprised and disappointed it continues to be brought forth,” Tait said.

City officials had said they had little choice but to spend money on the tennis center renovation because the city is bound by a contract with the center operator, although Community Services Director Terry Lowe had said the contract doesn’t stipulate a deadline.

Also, the project’s revenue source comes from Platinum Triangle developer fees and can only be spent around that area, which includes the tennis center.

City spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz continued to defend the project in an emailed statement to Voice of OC, highlighting again that the city is contractually obligated to finance the renovations. Also, she said the pricetag had increased because of “the delay in construction,” which spiked construction costs due to changed building codes and a better economy.

“Similar to our parks, playgrounds, nature center and dog parks, we look forward its updates and renovations, further offering residents opportunities for recreation, play and healthy activities in Anaheim,” Ruiz wrote.

The area near the Platinum Triangle is extremely short on parkland. And during the tennis center controversy in 2013, Councilwoman Kris Murray said she asked “15 ways to Sunday if we could put that money in other places.”

Yet just last week, Murray, Councilman Jordan Brandman and Councilwoman Lucille Kring voted to rezone seven acres near that location from parkland to industrial the city prepares to sell the land to a developer. Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt voted against the rezoning.

City officials said the land wasn’t an ideal spot for a park because, among other reasons, it is close to a major freeway, and there are air quality advisements against such park locations.

Tait said the rezone decision makes the budgeted tennis center renovation “particularly disturbing.”

When the tennis center renovation was initially budgeted, its cost was $1.1 million more than all the other budgeted park projects combined. However, this year’s budget also includes $10.7 million for improvements at Ponderosa Park, which is in largely working-class Latino central Anaheim.

The Ponderosa Park additions will include a “new gymnasium, playground, water feature and skate park,” according to city budget documents.

Also in the budget are improvements at Little People’s Park, which activists highlighted as particularly in need of renovation when they first criticized the tennis center project. The park will get a “reconstructed gazebo, fountain, upgraded turf, a barbeque area, and a reconfigured basketball court that will accommodate full-court play,” budget documents state.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • CitizensForAnimalShelterOC

    The largest percentage of animals who ended up at the county animal shelter were from the city of ANAHEIM. The largest percentage of animals killed (we humans like to use euthanized to make ourselves feel better) at the county animal shelter were from the city of ANAHEIM. The worst ever O C Grand Jury Reports on the County animal shelter were issued in May and June 2015. It’s obvious the Orange County Board of Supervisors (the responsible entity for the county animal shelter) have ignored years of complaints from advocates and still to this day have done little to improve the conditions. ANAHEIM is one of the cities which contract with the county for animal services and is required to respond to the Grand Jury as to what they plan to do.. In private industry, if a contractor was not providing proper service, the contract would be terminated!. In this case we are talking about “living beings”, animals!!!! So ANAHEIM has decided to spend $7.9 million dollars on a tennis center?????
    A animal services feasibility study was performed jointly by the City of Anaheim and 5 other contract cities in 2001 for the purposes of withdrawing from the county and forming a Joint Powers Authority to provide animal care. ANAHEIM BACKED OUT, so it was not formed. Here we are 14 years later, conditions at the shelter worse than they ever were and Anaheim city council members have decided to spend millions of dollars on a tennis center renovation, REALLY?

  • kburgoyne

    #1. Who is the “private” in “privately run”?

    #2. If this center “isn’t free to residents” then why is the city in a contract obliging it to spend money on the facility? If the facility isn’t going to be free to residents, then the facility needs to pay for its own renovations, etc, out of its own fees. Otherwise the city is ACTUALLY subsidizing the cost of a private club.

    • RyanCantor

      Whoa whoa whoa . . . a private entity in Anaheim paying its own way?

      Heaven forfend. How would the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce justify its existence if everyone demanded that private entities do their business without feasting from the public trough?

  • RyanCantor

    “City officials had said they had little choice but to spend money on the tennis center renovation because the city is bound by a contract with the center operator”

    Great. Fire whoever wrote the contract.

    Yet another example of city staff manufacturing a crisis to justify absurd levels of spending and giveaways.

    • David Zenger

      Any guesses about which prominent Anaheim lobbyist uses that tennis facility?

      • RyanCantor

        Or who the operator hired as their lobbyist . . .

        • David Zenger

          Could it be one and the same person?

          • RyanCantor

            Surely not. There must be some limit as to how far Anaheim will bend over for that particular individual.

  • Steve W.

    Tennis isn’t “Latino” enough, according to Elmahrek’s outraged (and unnamed) Latino activists? Now sports facilities are subject to racial bean counting? Maybe the city should stop funding the golf course because golf is too “white.” It’s sad the Voice of OC has let itself become the Voice of these race hustlers.

  • David Zenger

    “A controversial tennis center renovation that was pulled from the Anaheim budget in 2013 after sparking outrage among Latino activists and Mayor Tom Tait has found its way back into this fiscal year’s budget.”

    Yes, Tennis Center crawled out of the swamp when it thought no one was looking, wandered over to the budget office at City Hall, logged on, and inserted itself in to the budget when nobody was paying attention.

    This seems to be the way of things in Anaheim. The inexplicable, the ridiculous and the obscene keep popping up all by themselves. Poor, innocent Tennis Center! Had it known better it would have waited to pull this stunt on the Friday before the Labor Day week-end!