Letter to the Editor: Tennis Courts and Ballfields Come from the Same School of Thought


Should Public Dollars Compete with Private Business?

By: Martha Crosley

I had a here-we-go-again moment last week. It concerned taking something away from the majority and blatantly providing a small minority special interest with public property. Remember Wesselman Park? Remember last year when many of citizens of Evansville were upset and dismayed that park land was being used to support those interested in baseball, so interested in fact that they would take land away from a public park (land which belongs to all of us ) and tear down a public building (Roberts Stadium) to do so? This land serves as buffer to Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, a state and federally recognized preserve, the only one of its kind in the world. Many did not like that idea.

Well, here we go again. The Evansville Community Tennis Association has secured approval from the Parks Board to greatly expand the tennis courts and parking, and to erect a huge tennis building in Wesselman Park. I have nothing against tennis but substantial problems have been brought to light.
The first and foremost issue for many people is the taking of multi-use public land and making it single use. The land in question is a large open grassy field which is really the only large open space in the park where kids can throw a Frisbee, play touch football etc. It is also away from the main park entry road so if someone is chasing a ball, it is less dangerous should their attention lapse for a second. There is minimal parking so more land and trees would be taken for that.

For those of you interested in tourism dollars, these tennis courts will bring in a very low and slow return on investment. Tennis tournaments do not bring the numbers like other sports such as soccer and certainly not like the inflated estimates presented to us for the baseball fields last year. Again, tennis is a great sport, but placing more courts and a large building in Wesselman makes no sense unless tennis is your life.

Another problem concerns the fact that the contract which the Evansville Community Tennis Association has with the Park Board states that the adding of more tennis courts to Wesselman Park had a 2009 end time limit. The Park Board tells me that they verbally extended this contract but I can find no record of the date given or the length of extension. Surely it was not extended indefinitely and surely it would have been strongly reconsidered with all the remonstrations that occurred last year with the baseball fields fiasco. I can’t imagine our city government extending a contract with, say, a supplier of services or products for something like cleaning the stadium, printing our forms, or for paper towels in the rest rooms without a written and signed contract.

Then there is the issue of the large pole barn structure that is proposed to be built to contain 6 tennis courts. Folks, we already have a large building adjacent to Wesselman Park. It is called Roberts Stadium. It has been suggested on more than one occasion that we need to propose new uses for Roberts. Well here is one. And it is already built. If properly handled, Roberts could not only serve as a place for indoor tennis, but for other indoor sports as well. The concrete surrounding this building could be used as outdoor courts.

This smacks of another problem, the Evansville No-Plan-Is-Our-Plan Policy. If the new arena, the fate of Roberts, the baseball fields, the tennis courts, Wesselman Parks needs, considerations for the neighborhood, the desires of the people of Evansville, the sewer issues in the area, the pumps under the floor at the stadium etc, etc, etc had all been considered in making an overall plan years ago with input of experts and the public, think how much time, money, stress, and aggravation would have been avoided.

Other problems: Who in current local government is supporting this tennis expansion as a payback for favors rendered? What about legal problems like the question of tax money supporting the business of tennis when other local sports businesses in Evansville are running on their own with no public support? (Here I refer the gift of public land on which to run tennis and the potential of the Convention and Visitors Bureau providing funds for the project.)

Other problems continue to surface. Other connections run deep. It is your money and your land people. Start asking questions.

Suggestion: Contact the following groups to express your concerns. You should email or write a letter, not phone, for clarity, courtesy, and acceptance. It is time for the citizens to speak out.
1. Evansville Parks Board – Request a copy be provided to each board member.
2. Evansville City Council – Request a copy be provided to each board member.
3. Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau (att. Mr. Bob Warren)


  1. I can not believe our mayoral candidates haven’t cried foul about this!

    Do way too many people have keys to the cookie jar in Evansville?

    How can we have policy, when we don’t have control?

  2. ECVB…tasked with spending the “innkeepers” tax collected to increase tourism and business into Evansville….

    ECTA and USTA numbers show that since ECTA dipped into public funds from AZTAR donations to the parks in 2005 for their 4 court/clubhouse/viewing deck that there have been no increase in USTA jr. tournaments and that the numbers of participants in the current ECTA run tournaments is actually down. According to USTA published statistics:

    2005 had over 90 participants in the Stevenson Memorial Tounament… 11 from more than 50 miles away

    2011. Just this year had 55 participants with 6 from over 60 miles away (5 if you count the family members in the draw).

    That is not a huge influx of heads in hotel beds or increases in meals served in local restaurants.

    The “professional” 10K challenger that ECTA proudly touts, had been run on 8 courts at U of E courts for over a decade and was a 25k event. Many of the participants in this event are housed at local tennis afficianodos homes, so often they do not put heads in beds either.
    It is also my understanding that the challenger allows local high school girls to play to fill the open spots in the draw. So the event is not even filling it’s draw?
    ECTA’s courts increased, but the participation decreased? Now they want more public funds to “increase tourism”?

    Why is a non-profit organization building (according to their proposed plans)offices for tennis professionals? Who are these profesionals going to be? Who is determining if they are being paid a fair market value, or is this an inside way for the tennis folks from a now defunct facility to start a new venture on the public’s land and dollar?

    Why is nobody on the parks board nor the VCB asking these questions? They may have very good anwers, but we will never know if the powers that be do not ask them.

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