The three secluded Russell Gardens tennis courts, accessible only through a narrow path between two private homes, have served the village for 85 years without a major overhaul and Mayor Steve Kirschner feels that it’s time for
that to change.
“The state of the tennis courts presently is that they have to be redone,” emphasized Kirschner at the second of two informal meetings held in the 248-home, four apartment building community last week.
“The clay is packed so densely that every time there’s any kind of rain there’s a tremendous amount of runoff going into Wensley Drive, going into the storm drain,” he said, referring to the court surface that was first installed in 1930.
Kirschner estimates that the project, called for in the recently passed village budget, would cost about $220,000. The mayor is optimistic that the majority of the funds will come from a state grant.
Since the village purchased the courts and parkland across the street from the courts from the homeowners association in 2013, apartment residents have, for the first time, been granted the right to use both facilities. Prior to the sale, the homeowners association, established in 1927, always managed them.
During the meeting Kirschner emphasized that the deteriorating courts were in such poor condition that ignoring the need to renovate them could force their closure. As the only access to the courts, which are nestled in back of a number of surrounding village homes, is a narrow walkway, construction access through the backyard of a cooperative homeowner would be necessary.
Still to be decided is what type of surface residents would prefer for the installation. A Har-Tru surface is favored by Kirschner as the most sensible choice and that feeling was seconded by several of the residents at the meeting.
“I play a lot at Parkwood,” longtime resident Elaine Sonenberg said. “Their courts are Har-Tru and they’re terrific.
“After about a half hour after it rains they’re dry,” she continued. “With our courts, you can wait two days until they’re playable. They never puddle the way our courts do. When they water our courts in the mornings they remain slippery and you can fall. The difference as far as speed is so minuscule. The benefits (of Har-Tru) should really out weigh anything else. If you’re going to spend the money you really want to go with the latest, best technology.”
Bill Smith, a representative of Gold Coast Tennis, who has built and maintained courts for almost 40 years, was a guest at the meeting and spoke of the advantages of using Har-Tru.
Explaining that the Har-Tru surface was made up of crushed green stone obtained from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Smith said, “A real Har-Tru court plays like a clay court but the big advantage is that it’s got four inches of (other) stone underneath it, two inches of fine screening and an inch of Har-Tru on top.
“The drainage is superior,” he added. “Clay is very hard to level, but with Har-Tru you just add material to it.”
Also supporting Har-Tru versus other surfaces such as rubber, asphalt or DecoTurf (used at Flushing Meadow), was former Russell Gardens Mayor Dan Nachmanoff who is now in his second term as a park district commissioner.
“The park district has 25 Har-Tru courts,” he said. “All of our indoor courts are Har-Tru also, so obviously somebody has thought through this a long time ago.”
Nachmanoff even injected some humor into the informal nature of the meeting when the difficulties of renovating the courts were discussed.
“You do know that you can always play at Memorial Field,” he pointed out, assuming his park district persona. “We have 20 courts there. It’ll just cost you just $65 a year for a permit.”
Kirschner, ever optimistic that the courts will be revitalized sometime this October, answered him good naturedly. “You can play here. Our courts are free.”
Russell Gardens residents are not charged a fee to use their own courts and they’re also members of the park district.