The notes below are meant to be a summary but not an exhaustive account of the conversation at the SAENA Community Meeting on January 28th, 2012. The focus of the meeting was to learn details about a proposal from DeLaSalle High School to fund three tennis courts at St Anthony Park, along 3rd Ave NE. These are not official meeting minutes and have not been approved at a public meeting. Please email us at [email protected] if you have questions or concerns about the notes.
The Basic Proposal:
DeLaSalle High School proposes to fund three new tennis courts for a Minneapolis park on the eastside of the Mississippi River. The courts would be owned by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) and would be available both for the DeLaSalle High School tennis team and for public use. The DeLaSalle tennis teams would establish a use agreement with MPRB to gain designated use of the courts for their afterschool practices and meets. After reviewing all possible locations at non-regional parks in the area previously served by the courts on Nicollet Island, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation identified St Anthony Park as the only viable location with enough room to place three new tennis courts. MPRB is seeking input from the St Anthony East neighborhood to see if this is something residents want and will allow in the park. No decision has been made by MPRB. They will go through a community engagement process to gauge interest in the project before making a final decision. The community engagement process will include an open house meeting and a survey of nearby households.
The courts would be built along 3rd Ave NE directly southeast of the hill known as “May Hill” or “May Mound”. They would attempt to preserve existing plants and trees in the park to reduce environmental impact. There would be no fixed seating built next to the tennis courts. We do not know what the estimated square footage of the courts is yet.
Why is DeLaSalle High School funding tennis courts for MPRB?
The project would fulfill a reciprocal use agreement between the school and MPRB that resulted from DeLaSalle gaining permission to build their football field on MPRB-owned parkland on Nicollet Island.
Why was St Anthony Park chosen as the preferred site?
Minneapolis Parks and Recreation identified St Anthony Park as the only eligible location non regional parkland in the area previously served by the courts on Nicollet Island with enough space to hold at least four tennis courts (there is one existing court at St Anthony Park already). MPRB claims that there is strongest public demand for tennis locations with at least four courts. This option is also preferred by the DeLaSalle High School tennis team.
Alternative locations for the courts within St Anthony Park:
Discussion took place regarding the possibility of placing the courts in a different section of the park. Some residents proposed that the courts could be placed where the current softball diamond sits, which would preserve green space along 3rd Ave NE. MPRB indicated that they do not typically replace one field activity for another use. Another resident asked if the courts could be shifted slightly to the east to create more distance between the courts and the hill, which children use for sledding in the winter. MPRB explained that shifting the courts that way would require them to remove a large, mature tree, which they prefer not to do.
MPRB’s Project Goals and Intentions:
Commissioner Liz Wielinski explained that MPRB views this project as an opportunity to add an amenity to a Minneapolis neighborhood park that was previously taken away from another park at Nicollet Island. MPRB expressed that they do not want to impose this project on the neighborhood if residents do not want it here. They are committed to a community engagement process to identify the level of interest in the neighborhood about the potential project. They intend to work with Inner City Tennis to offer their program at St Anthony Park if the courts are built there. This program provides free tennis lessons to children in the community.
Under this proposal, the DeLaSalle High School tennis teams would use the courts after school for their practices and meets. The team would move the location of their home courts from Kenwood to St Anthony Park. DeLaSalle would use the courts for approximately two hours a day during the fall and spring tennis seasons. They would not have reserved use on weekends or during the summer. The courts would be open for public use at all other times.
The DeLaSalle tennis team – and opponent tennis teams — would take a bus to practices and meets. Parents and spectators would find street parking. It is possible that the Webster School parking lot could also be used depending on future use of the Webster building.
Primary resident concerns involved the close proximity of the courts to residential homes and to May Hill, which could pose a safety concern for children sledding. Resident concerns included:
- Insufficient Parking
- Loss of green space
- Too close to sledding hill/kids could get injured
- The existing court is underused
- Lack of investment in rest of the park
- Environmental impact (e.g. loss of existing plant life, water run-off)
- The space where they are looking at for the courts is currently used by people walking, playing, and walking their dogs.
Some residents claimed that the existing tennis court at St Anthony Park is frequently occupied and it is tough to find a time to play on it during peak hours.
Next Steps and Timeline:
MPRB will continue community engagement for this proposed project. They will conduct a survey to evaluate community interest and demand for the courts. They will survey residents within a particular proximity to the site, to identify how residents feel about the project and how many would use the courts. They are seeking continued input from the neighborhood. Residents are encouraged to email, call, or write Commissioner Liz Wielinski with their input on the proposal (see below for contact information). MPRB also plans to hold an Open House meeting where community members can look at design proposals and provide input. The date of this open how is yet to be determined. After the community engagement process is complete and the Park Planning department has evaluated the impact of the project on the community, they will make a final recommendation to the Park Board. The timing is flexible for this process and MPRB will stay in dialogue with SAENA as the process moves forward. If there was strong support in the neighborhood for the courts, they could begin the project in 2013. However, MPRB explained that they do not have a commitment to do this and wish to work with SAENA and residents on the issue.
Questions or input concerning this proposal can be directed to:
Commissioner Liz Wielinski
612-230-6443, Ext. 1