Several years ago, big holes and cracked clay could be seen through the fence surrounding the tennis courts at Clarkston’s Milam Park. The courts were usually kept padlocked unless a resident went to city hall and requested they be unlocked.
On Sept. 25, not a trace of the courts’ former problems could be seen. The park had gotten a grant for a makeover from the United States Tennis Association (USTA). That afternoon the courts were full of people celebrating the opening of the city’s new 10-and-under youth tennis program.
“We looked at several facilities in the Atlanta area and this really met our requirements. The courts were in very poor shape but it has surrounding fields of activity which we were very impressed with, like the swimming pool and the baseball field,” Mark Suiter of USTA said.
Suiter said that the USTA wanted to offer the grant to an area that would be used often. He also said it was part of the association’s initiative to get young people interested in tennis.
“You can see it’s really fun for them because it’s a court that is suited to their size,” Suiter said, pointing to several of the new courts at the park. “In every other sport—like soccer and baseball—you have a field that’s suited to the kids; in tennis you have a 78 foot court, which is intimidating.
Suiter said that the USTA looked at its numbers and realized that it didn’t have a lot of 10 and under players and it needed to change that. He said there will be 10 more courts built throughout the southeast.
City Manager Keith Barker said he thought Clarkston received the grant, in part, due to its commitment to improving infrastructure. Recently, contractors have been constructing a new pool slated to open in the next few months and unveiled plans to renovate its baseball field.
Regarding whether the new courts could be a source of income by holding tournaments and events, Barker said that it was important first, just to get more people to come to use them.
“We’re not really looking at it from a financial standpoint. My main interest is improving the quality of life here in Clarkston and making sure that our facilities are utilized by the citizens,” Barker said.
Barker said he recentlyhad been coming to the park at different times of the day and was struck by how little people used the facilities. However, Barker said he now unlocks the tennis courts when the park opens and closes them at dusk to encourage their use.
“It’s a bigger picture, I’m not trying to squeeze every dollar out of a tennis court but if you’ve got nice facilities and nice streetscapes, then a couple of years down the road people will start coming here and eventually it will pay off financially,” Barker said.