FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Pacific Tennis Foundation instructors gave kids lessons yesterday at the tennis facility in Central Oahu Regional Park. Chanelle Gadsden, left, returned balls picked up after serving practice as instructor Mark Allen, right, moved the cart across the court.
Dispute ends park contract for tennis
The nonprofit group running the program wanted facilities at the Central Oahu complex
A foundation says it will be forced to stop offering tennis classes and events for hundreds of players at Central Oahu Regional Park next month because of financial troubles worsened by a dispute with the city.
The Hawaii Pacific Tennis Foundation, which has been managing 20 tennis courts under a city contract for almost three years, will pull out from the park July 2 unless it can move into a new complex with showers, lockers and meeting and storage rooms, said foundation Executive Director Mark Beede.
Beede argues the city is breaching a contract signed during former Mayor Jeremy Harris' administration by not giving the foundation space at the complex, which was built in November and houses an Olympic-size swimming pool.
"They just haven't cooperated with us, haven't let us into the new part of the facility, and we've ran out of money," said Beede, who believes the new building could help the foundation stay on its feet. "We held on as long as we could."
Gail Haraguchi, deputy director with the city Enterprise Services Department, said the aquatic complex was never intended for the tennis foundation. She said a planned Phase II to expand the tennis portion of the park is on hold because of limited funding.
"They felt that they were entitled, based upon Phase I and Phase II, to a broader area and scope, and so it was a difference of opinion," Haraguchi said yesterday. "They said they would terminate if they didn't get X, Y and Z, so we took them on their offer."
The city will start managing the courts once the foundation leaves, said Les Chang, city parks director. The city, he said, will work with leagues so they can have tournaments and will set up a sign-in system for the public. Extra costs for running the courts will be minimal and limited to a few staff hours, Chang said.
The tennis complex was dedicated in February 2003, and the foundation began its classes and programs six months later, Beede said. Like the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex, it is a major project pushed by the Harris administration that has run into funding problems.
The goal of the tennis complex is to attract professional tournaments to Hawaii and give residents a place to practice and play the sport.
Beede said the foundation was paying the city $4,000 a month to operate the complex. He said the termination of the contract should affect some 600 kids and about 70,000 people who play at the courts each year. The foundation plans to lay off all but three of its 15 employees and teachers.
Beede said he still plans to hold an Aloha State Games competition from Friday to July 2, the Hawaii Pacific Open Wheelchair Championships in October and the Hawaii Pacific Seniors Championships in December.
Martin Burke, a Waipahu resident who chaired a group in the late 1990s that lobbied for the park, said the city entered into a public-private partnership with the tennis foundation to minimize costs of maintaining the complex.
Burke believes that the city should make room for the foundation in the aquatic complex because "they provide some good services."
"In my view it is a dialogue of the deaf,"* he said about the dispute. "Personally, I think the city should have said, 'Foundation, you are doing a good job. Go ahead, move in.'"
Richard Poirier, foundation vice president, said the nonprofit, which charges between $11 and $16 for tennis lessons ranging from one to 2 1/2 hours, does not want to increase rates because it could lose current members.
"There's only so much that people will pay," he said. "It's sad, really. The whole thing doesn't make any sense. It's kind of frustrating."
Poirier, who chairs the Mililani Neighborhood Board, said that when the foundation leaves, the complex will no longer have promotional events and other amenities such as two golf carts that players can use to get to courts. He said the city will be responsible for water fountains, lighting and maintaining the courts.
Chang said the city will not provide professional tennis classes, but can look for a new contractor if there is demand for it.
"We are hoping that the basic user will not see a real difference," he said.
Friday, July 7, 2006
» Marty Burke, co-chairman of the Central Oahu Regional Park Advisory Committee, referred to a dispute between the city and the Hawaii Pacific Tennis Foundation as a "dialogue of the deaf." A Page A1 article June 24 incorrectly quoted Burke as saying "dialogue of the death."