Mount Airy High School has a state championship-caliber tennis program, but its courts are increasingly serving up “faults.”
After being resurfaced in 2008, cracks increasingly have appeared in the courts, along with another problem. “Pieces on top have kind of been breaking off,” Scott Kniskern, a tennis coach at the school, said Monday of an issue also becoming more apparent as time passes.
“There’s some two-inch gaps out there,” Jon Cawley, a city commissioner, said of the courts’ condition.
While Cawley added Monday that he knows of at least one prominent local player who no longer will use the facilities because of their condition, Kniskern says he doesn’t believe players’ safety is being compromised at this point.
“They’re not in great shape,” the coach said of the courts, but “we can get by with them right now.”
However, both Mount Airy educational and city government officials are concerned that the deteriorating quality of the six courts located behind the high school might render them unplayable unless corrective action occurs.
A step was taken in that direction earlier this month when the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 5-0, at Cawley’s urging, to renew a commitment first made by city government in the 1990s.
It was part of an agreement with the city school system to provide money for upkeep of the courts, taking into account that they are used by the general public as well as scholastic players. This involved earmarking $5,000 each year toward repairs and maintenance.
“The agreement ended in 2006, and the life of the courts did not end in 2006,” Cawley said at the meeting, when municipal officials agreed to help fund any future improvements there — which could prove costly. “I think the question is do we participate or not,” Cawley said.
“There has been work since then (2006), but the city has not been involved in it,” he said Monday.
Kniskern said the high school courts and others at Mount Airy Middle School were redone in the summer of 2008.
But problems were noticed in the spring of 2010, less than two years later. “They started having more cracks than I’m used to seeing that soon after a resurfacing job,” Kniskern explained.
The tennis coach thinks the problem could require more extensive work to fix than just surface treatment.
“It’s more like a foundational issue with us being in the floodplain here,” Kniskern said of the courts’ location in a stream bottom. He is guessing that the sub-structure underneath the courts is not solid enough to keep out moisture and prevent the cracking and other issues.
Kniskern said he appreciates both Commissioner Cawley and Scott Graham, a fellow city board member, taking an interest in the situation.
He and Cawley hope the commissioners’ recent commitment will allow the city government and school system to be proactive in improving the courts and getting out in front of any needed repairs. No schedule for the process has been announced as yet.
The coach said the timing seems right to build such momentum, given that facility needs for a non-revenue sport such as tennis don’t always receive a high priority.
“People listen more when you’re state champions,” Kniskern said.
Dr. Greg Little, superintendent of Mount Airy schools, said Monday that the MAHS tennis players deserve quality facilities.
“Our tennis teams have been incredibly successful,” he said. “We want to work hard to make sure they have a place to perform.”
The superintendent also applauded the recent action by the commissioners.
“I am so thankful for the commitment of our city government and their willingness to create a partnership with the city schools.”
Little added: “I think it is apparent that our partnership is mutually beneficial and we can accomplish so much more together than we could individually.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoycecivitas.com.