Community Tennis: Gilroy Tennis Club, city pair up for Las Animas courts facelift

The Las Animas Veteran's Park tennis courts recently received a $71,400 overlay which was the result of a partnership between the City of Gilroy and the Gilroy Tennis Club.

GILROY — When Gilroy Tennis Club members Mike Hansen, Paul Wheeler and Marco Renella brought their proposal to restore the Las Animas Veteran’s Park tennis courts to the City of Gilroy in mid-2012, they weren’t sure what to expect. They were asking for a hefty amount of money — $28,000 — but it was just a portion of what would be needed to complete the project — they’d take care of the rest, they assured the city. But with cities tightening their budgets across the country, the idea of allocating funds to restore tennis courts almost felt like a pipe dream.
Much to their surprise, the City of Gilroy OK’d their proposal and thus began the long road that was the overlay project for the Las Animas Veteran’s Park tennis courts. The oldest of the four courts received a facelift which included a geo-textile mat being installed over the existing surface followed by one-and-a-half inches of fresh compacted asphalt and three cure coats being applied over the mat. The project was completed with three sanded color coated being applied. Construction began on Oct. 21 and was completed on Nov. 20, costing $71,400. The City of Gilroy contributed $28,000 to the project in addition to $23,400 from the Gilroy Tennis Club. The additional funds came from the United States Tennis Association — who gave $10,000 — and a private $10,000 donation from GTC member Robert Ruge.
“There were times when I didn’t think it was ever going to happen to be honest,” GTC member and director of the club’s adult programs Hansen said.
Getting that grant approved, Renella said, was no easy task. Hansen and co. put in countless hours and hundreds emails were exchanged between him, the city, the GTC and the USTA. Close-ups of the cracks and damages were sent over and over again to the USTA along with all the paperwork needed to receive the funding.
“To request a grant is really difficult — people are going to demand that you do it to the letter,” GTC Director of Charitable Trusts Renella said. “If not, they’re not going to give you a dollar. That’s what Mike was really good at was filling in all the boxes.”
The project was a dream come true for Hansen, who first had the vision of renovating the courts during his four-year tenure as GTC president. Hansen said he wanted to make the Las Animas courts “the best possible place to play our league tennis on” and started that with the club purchasing new windscreens and nets as well as resurfacing the courts — which essentially is just repainting — twice since 2006.
But there was still much more to be done.
The courts, which were built in 1976, were showing their age and needed much more intensive repair in order to preserve their longevity and prevent them from cracking beyond repair. It’s estimated that this overlay will kept the courts in tact for at least 20 more years. The project would not have been possible without the partnership between the GTC and the City of Gilroy, Park Supervisor Bill Headley said.
“Without the club’s assistance in fundraising and in obtaining grants, these kind of improvements that benefit us both — ergo the partnership — wouldn’t have taken place,” Headley said. “This is a win-win for everyone as far as I can see.”
As the last coat of paint was applied and the work trucks pulled away, Hansen said that his head was flooded with emotions looking at the final product before him.
“There was two things for me: Relief and a little bit of pride,” he said. “I was proud of how they came out. I felt like a kid, to be honest with you, I was almost giddy they were so pretty. But take a look, I think these courts right now are the best courts in all the Monterey Bay-area — including the private clubs. I’m hoping that our club and our members are proud of them and take care of them.”
In addition to its facelift, blue lines were added each court marking off the dimensions for youth play — the lines shorten the court from 78-feet to 60-feet. These lines will make it easier for the players who participate in Gilroy’s junior tennis program, which is run through the Rec Department, to learn the game.
The new courts usher in a safer environment for the public and GTC’s 225-plus members — including their senior members.
“It’s a sport for life,” Renella said. “We have a bunch of 80-year-olds out here — a bunch.”
Hansen said that GTC isn’t finished with improving Las Animas’ tennis courts. The club plans on resurfacing the back two courts in 2014 as well as replacing its windscreens. They are also hoping to continue to work with the City of Gilroy on a five or 10-year plan to build more courts.