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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2006
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John Thomas, left, Dionisio Guerra and Jose Guadarrama finish smoothing concrete for sidewalks to connect the tennis courts under construction at Point Mallard on Wednesday. The courts and a bubble dome, which will protect two of the 18 courts from the elements, will open next week.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
John Thomas, left, Dionisio Guerra and Jose Guadarrama finish smoothing concrete for sidewalks to connect the tennis courts under construction at Point Mallard on Wednesday. The courts and a bubble dome, which will protect two of the 18 courts from the elements, will open next week.

Bubble dome, tennis courts will open next week at park

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com· 340-2442

When Decatur’s winter weather turns frightful, tennis enthusiasts should find the bubble dome at Point Mallard Park delightful after it opens for play next week.

Tennis Director Tommy Wade said Wednesday workers this weekend would install the 5-ton, 38-foot-tall, inflatable structure, which will protect two of the 18 courts at the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center from the elements.

With the exception of four clay courts, the center should accommodate hackers on the remaining hard courts next week, weather permitting.

“I’ve already scheduled seven tournaments,” Wade said. “But we’re not going to stop there. We’ll have a schedule ready by Jan. 15.”

Jeff Dunlap, director of Parks and Recreation, said workers would soon put the finishing touches on drainage and fencing for the clay courts.

Although the Decatur Community Tennis Association bought the $12,000 bubble dome through fundraisers, a 1,549-square-foot support building at the complex will cost taxpayers $464,243.

Two councilmen lobbied against spending that much on a small building, but it was approved Oct. 2 by a 3-2 vote.

“I was never convinced it was necessary,” Councilman Gary Hammon said. “I support the tennis community and extra courts 100 percent, but we don’t need this tennis center building. We should have gotten tournaments in here and then looked at building it.”

Hammon said the budget for the building was $300,000 and that all the quotes came in over budget. The council approved the lowest of four bids. The highest bid on the building was $541,306.

No ‘bells and whistles’

Dunlap said the building has no “bells and whistles” and explained some of the associated costs by the city’s desire to use wood and stone to have a consistent appearance with other Decatur park structures.

“I have no reason to believe it was not a very competitive price,” Dunlap said. “It’s critical that we start showing some consistency in our park structures and signage, too. The only things that cost more to incorporate were the large timbers and stone.”

Dunlap said the city is building the structure to last 100 years, and citizens will be proud of this project.

The building, which was designed by Schoel Godwin Barnett P.C., has two 10-by-7 foot offices, three storage rooms, a 600-square-foot pro shop, restrooms with two stalls each and a display area.

Dunlap said the building also would have a covered porch facing the courts and aesthetically match the stone look of the rose garden at Delano Park.

Preliminary site work on the building is under way, Dunlap said.

“When visiting tourists look at it, they’ll see we’ve done things right,” he said.

Councilman David Bolding said the city saved money, however, on tennis-court construction, “by being the general contractor and subbing out the wiring, lighting and prep work.”

Dunlap said he didn’t know exactly how much the savings would have been compared to hiring a contractor, who would have been under deadline to complete the job.

‘Saved thousands’

“There’s no doubt in my mind we saved thousands of dollars,” Dunlap said.

The city began clearing brush at the center this time last year, but delays ensued when workers found swampy soil conditions.

“All that top soil took forever to dig out and then build a subbase for the courts,” Dunlap said. “But we didn’t want to have the same trouble like we have at Wilson Morgan Park with the court surface cracking.”

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