Numbers game: Players press city to keep low-cost tennis-court operator in P’Park

Love it! All-weather sports bubble will cover McCarren Park tennis courts this fall
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

These tennis players fear a racket!

Nearly 1,500 local athletes signed an online petition imploring the Department of Parks and Recreation renew the contract of Prospect Park’s current tennis-court operator, lest a new one swoop in and serve a price increase to patrons.

“The fear is getting another vendor means the fee will go up,” said Susan Fox, a member of the Prospect Park Community Committee, which liaises between locals and the green space’s stewards.

The Prospect Park Alliance, which maintains the meadow in conjunction with the city, currently operates the nine clay and two hard courts at the tennis center in Brooklyn’s Backyard during the October–May indoor season under a 15-year agreement it secured in 2003.

But that contract — which also requires the conservancy to provide instructors and permits it to use three courts for lessons during the June–September outdoor season, when the rest of the facilities are managed by the Parks Department — expires in October. And the city’s so-called fair-practice rules require the green-space agency to allow other companies to compete for control of the courts, which generated more than $2 million in gross revenue in its 2015–16 seasons alone, according to the Parks Department’s request for proposals to manage the tennis center.

The new operator will be allowed to hike fees for facilities during the indoor season, but can’t institute any price increases without the green-space agency’s written approval, according to a spokeswoman, who said Parks Department leaders will consider the will of the people when picking the courts’ new — or old — custodian.

“Parks will take the community’s concerns and suggestions, including those related to pricing, into consideration during the evaluation process, and will select the best overall proposal submitted in response to the RFP,” said Maeri Ferguson, who added that agency bigwigs are reviewing proposals and hope to made a final decision sometime this spring.

And Prospect Park Alliance officials worked with the Parks Department to ensure its bid met all of the city’s requirements, although there’s no guarantee the current operator will keep its gig, a conservancy rep said.

“We definitely have been working closely with the Parks Department to make sure we’re meeting their requirements,” said Deborah Kirschner. “But we don’t have an inside track.”

Some local tennis players who endorsed the petition advocating for the alliance — which, with more than 1,470 signatures, is just dozens short of its 1,500 goal — praised its operation of the courts over the past decade.

“The Prospect Park Alliance has proved its competency in running a diverse, community-based tennis program in Brooklyn,” wrote signee Phyllis Sears.

But most expressed concerns about what cost increases a new steward would lob at patrons, if chosen.

“Keep affordable tennis at Prospect Park,” wrote Arian Camilleri.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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