Funding to improve the city’s tennis courts, including converting some to pickleball courts, and to hire two employees to do maintenance at the Searcy Sports Complex was approved Tuesday by the Searcy Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission.
Mayor Kyle Osborne presented both proposals, asking for $95,000 in advertising and promotions tax revenue for the tennis court work and $45,000 for the new employees.
Osborne said he and Searcy Parks and Recreation Director Mike Parsons have been communicating with area man who repairs tennis courts, Philip Walker.
“We have been discussing the possibility,” Osborne said. “This would be up to the [Searcy City] Council, converting the tennis courts at Yancey Park to pickleball and then redoing the surface of the tennis courts at Berryhill Park ... with the assistance of A&P funds.”
Osborne said he has had a lot of requests that the city do something about pickleball.
He said Walker had submitted the $95,000 estimated cost. He said they were looking to see if there was another company to bid on the work, but the city hasn’t found one yet.
City Attorney Buck Gibson mentioned that with pickleball, “this would actually be a way to be able to have the capability to host tournaments in Searcy.”
Osborne said some pickleball players are able to play in the Carmichael Center but because it is small, they are not able to host tournament there. Osborne said the possibility of striping some of the Berryhill Park tennis courts for pickleball is also being talked about.
Gibson asked Parsons if there was a resurgence of tennis. Parsons said that there has been and “because we are centrally located, we are pulling in people from Bradford, Rose Bud, Quitman, Beebe for the tennis league that started five years ago. They can’t even use our courts anymore.”
Parsons said Amanda Watson, who runs Searcy youth tennis, is having to use the courts at the high school and Harding University because of the condition of the city’s courts. “So at some point, we’re not going to be able to use the high school or the college and the league won’t exist anymore.”
Gibson said the city already has lost its ability to host tennis tournaments. “This will allow us hopefully to host some tennis tournaments,” he said.
A&P Commission Chairman Chris Howell asked Osborne if any type of warranty was offered with the work of improving the tennis courts.
“Nothing that I am aware of,” Osborne said. “This would be to go in and fix the cracks and all the tennis courts and buff them down and repaint. This is a quick fix to a problem we’ve had for years; it didn’t happen overnight.”
Howell said his main concern was that the courts would be usable. “They will be usable for years from what he told me. It is a local company,“ Osborne said.
Howell also asked how old the courts were, and Osborne said they had to be 40 years old.
Commissioner Tommy Centola made the motion to approve the funds, which was passed unanimously by the four members present, which included Gary Patel and Mike Chalenburg.
The commission also unanimously approved the $45,000 request, with Osborne saying the two new employees would mow, weed eat and do other maintenance work at the sports complex.
He said plans are in the works for some “major tournaments” at the sports complex.
“When I say major, we have been in communication with a softball tournament director that said he wants to have a couple of tournaments a month, upwards of 70 teams showing up,” Osborne said. “When you put that many people out there in that complex, we are going to have some maintenance out there in addition to what we already have.”
Parsons said there will be a statewide softball tournament at the sports complex June 12 that will be an overnight tournament.
“We have requested as many two-day tournaments as they can possibly give us,” Osborne said.
The council also will be asked to approve adding the new employees at its May meeting.