Platte City parks board appears set to fund additional tennis courts for PCR-3

The Platte City Parks and Recreation Board appears ready to fund two additional tennis courts for a Platte County R-3 School District project, bringing up the possibility of full expansion to an eight-court facility much sooner than originally expected.

At the end of a meeting Monday, July 11, board members made a decision to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, July 18. The only item on the agenda will be a vote for the parks department to supply up to $117,500 in funding to increase the district’s current project from four courts to six.

The discussion indicated overwhelming support for the proposal.

“I think, obviously as a community, it would benefit us,” parks board member Justin Tyler said. “If we can make a one-time donation, obviously, we would never have any future costs or worries for upkeep, as far as coming from our budget. 

“I would tend to support us donating some money.”

If passed, the Platte County R-3 Board of Education could consider chipping in the final portion of funding for the master plan — roughly another $117,500 — to increase the project to the planned eight-court facility. Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said the board would likely have interest in making that commitment with the parks department’s donation.

The parks department does not plan to make its donation reliant upon the district adding any more funding to the project. Completion of amenities including bleacher seating and lighting would still have to be funded at a later date.

The latest — and somewhat unexpected development — brings about the possibility that an eight-court facility in Platte City could be finished by the end of this fall. The process of expanding to six or possibly eight courts would now be dependent on working out details with contractors and making sure the board follows proper protocol in securing the labor and materials. 

This past spring, the R-3 school board approved plans to demolish the district’s only tennis facilities — two dilapidated courts in disrepair on campus, more than 40 years old.

However, grant funding, private donations and donated work/materials from contractors on site working on other projects allowed the district to announce the construction of four tennis courts, east of Siegrist Elementary. The district plans to use about $174,000 in non-tax revenue to fund the remainder of the first phase, expected to cost about $600,000— up from initial estimates.

Reik repeatedly pledged support for getting the facility to eight courts, but he stressed the opportunity to continue leveraging future grant money to phase in the project. However, the district did not provide a specific timeline for expanding the facility to eight courts, although asphalt and grading work would prepare the site for that design with the rest of the work to be completed as funding became available.

Previously, the Platte County Tennis Court Committee, a grassroots group pushing the project, made a presentation at the June board of education meeting, but policy prohibits the board from voting on an item brought from citizen participation, which led to some perceived frustrations. District officials and community supporters of expediting the plan and finding funding sources to complete eight courts now met in an open forum the next week.

In an occasionally contentious back-and-forth discussion, supporters urged for creativity in coming up with additional funds now to show the tennis court facility project as a priority.

This included plans for the tennis court committee and Reik to attend the Platte City Parks and Recreation board meeting, which occurred this week. Hope seemed to center around the board offering a certain amount of money with hopes the district could come up with the remainder to complete at least six courts.

“We would be thrilled to have city parks and rec partner with us on expanding this facility,” Reik told the board. “There’s a window of opportunity, and we’re taking advantage of that window currently.”

However, the presentation was on the parks board agenda as discussion only, which didn’t allow for a vote.

Committee members and Reik left after the presentation with the hopes of meeting a demanding timeline seemingly fading. The four-court plan, slated for completion in August, would provide for expanded practice area, but the team still could not host full home events this season without at least expanding the project.

This became the focus of getting the facility to six courts with committee members also stressing the benefit to the community.

“We were hoping there might be an opportunity for the city and school to bring those extra courts to fruition,” said Onnie Bock-Kunz, spokesperson for the tennis court committee who helped gather more than 450 signatures on a petition in support of an eight-court facility to be built now.

Parks board members took up the discussion again at the end of their meeting, eventually settling on providing the full amount from its current fund balance of about $1.6 million. The donation would help solidify an ongoing relationship with the school district that could give the city priority use of the facility when the district is not using it.

This could include summer programming, partnerships with Platte County Community Center North or tournaments.

Platte County started its boys and girls tennis programs for the 2008-2009 school year as it moved from the Midland Empire Conference to the Suburban Conference. 

Without true home facilities, the district has also been renting two courts for designated practice time in the Seven Bridges subdivision at a cost of about $1,000 per year. Still, the setup requires split practices, and home meets are either played on the road or at Oak Park High School, as nearby school’s facilities are available.

The expansion to six or eight courts could alleviate those complications, although the timeline for completing the extra construction would have to be determined later.