The Norma Chase Tennis Courts on Church Street in Tisbury have no nets, leaves on the courts, and grass poking through the clay. The courts will be seeing a return in the future after some fixing up, but for the second summer in a row, there has been no tennis played on them.
In May 2020, the future of the courts became the focus of a select board meeting. When town officials last talked publicly about the courts, they were faced with an angry Zoom crowd concerned the courts would be turned into a parking lot. Instead, town leaders vowed to keep and improve the courts.
Carolyn Wallis, a member of the Open Space and Recreation Committee, said the select board passed the issue on to the at-the-time newly formed committee to make a recommendation. Wallis remembered the concern the courts’ neighbors and the tennis community expressed about them possibly going away.
“This was a special place,” said Wallis. The courts are in a historic part of Tisbury and have been with the town for many years, “adding a certain charm” to the area.
After that 2020 meeting, the committee conducted a survey about the public parks and spaces in Tisbury, including the courts. The survey assessed what was already working, what needed improvements, and how people felt about these locations. “There was a lot of support for it continuing to be [Church Street] tennis courts,” said Wallis. “There were no positives [from those surveyed] for it being a parking spot.”
After assessing the Tisbury residents’ opinions, the committee recommended to the select board to keep the courts, which was approved. The committee made the Open Space and Recreational Plan afterward, which is required to attain state funding for projects. The committee also applied for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for both the courts and the existing parking lot. According to Kirk Metell, director of the Tisbury Department of Public Works, Tisbury will use $250,000 from CPA funding to renovate the tennis courts.
The renovations call for replacing the clay and expanding the courts. The clay has been run thin now, so the courts have hard surfaces. Currently, the fence is very close to where the nets would be, and is smaller than regulation size. The parking lot will also see an expansion. Wallis said the way the parking lot is set up now is inefficient. It will be a one-way parking lot, increase the parking spots from 14 to 20, and have disability parking. Wallis said, “We’ll see,” as to whether overnight parking will be allowed.
Wallis also said the benches should be replaced.
“Hopefully, that’ll be done next summer,” said Wallis. “We don’t have a timetable yet.”
It has been two summers since the courts have been properly opened to the public. In 2020, the courts were shut down due to COVID. The wait time between town meetings to get funding approval has also dragged out the reopening process. The DPW has put up a sign on the Church Street tennis courts recommending the Lake Street courts to those who want to play.
Wallis said that there will be a fee for using the courts, although the rates have not been decided yet. Every public tennis court on the Island has fees. Wallis believes these fees should be enough to support the weekly maintenance that would be required for the Church Street courts.
“We as a committee think it’s a wonderful opportunity to have a first-rate tennis option and facility in the town. It’s also close to Tisbury School, so we’re hoping there can be some junior tennis or something happening there,” said Wallis. Tennis is a popular sport on the Island, and Wallis hopes the finished courts can attract young local talent to the sport, with the possibility of clinics from places like West Chop Club.
The next step for the town is to seek bids and award a contract for the construction on the courts and parking lot. Wallis said this has not been advertised yet, but a timetable should be more clear once a company is decided on. “It’s a busy time right now for tennis court contractors,” said Wallis. “Lots of people want to play tennis.”