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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2006
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Parks and Recreation employees inflated this 5-ton, 38-foot-tall bubble Tuesday, covering two tennis courts at Point Mallard Park.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Parks and Recreation employees inflated this 5-ton, 38-foot-tall bubble Tuesday, covering two tennis courts at Point Mallard Park.

Tennis in a bubble
Dome covers 2 courts at Point Mallard

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

Tennis player Annie Suggs, 13, won't have to freeze during her weekly tennis lessons anymore because of the new bubble dome at Point Mallard Park.

Parks and Recreation employees finished installing and inflating the 5-ton, 38-foot-tall structure Tuesday afternoon. Tennis Director Tommy Wade said the bubble will protect the two new courts it covers from the elements.

That's a good thing for Suggs and fellow tennis player Sarah Fite, 13, who have taken lessons at the park since they were 4 years old. The girls practice throughout the year, even when it's cold and windy, said Suggs. The bubble dome will provide a warmer, wind-free environment for the girls and other tennis enthusiasts.

After spending more than six days bolting the bubble to its frame, it took only 10 minutes for workers to inflate the massive dome Tuesday afternoon.

The bubble dome uses fans to remain inflated. Decatur Utilities installed a natural gas line at the site to power backup generators to keep the bubble inflated if the complex loses electricity.

Without the fans pumping air into the bubble, it would deflate in seven minutes, said Wade.

The Decatur Community Tennis Association raised $18,000 for the bubble, which was purchased from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.

Parks and Recreation Facilities and Operations Manager Paul Floyd said the covered courts will be open to the public after nearby construction is completed this summer. The city is building four clay courts next to the bubble, bringing the total number of courts at the park to 18.

The city is also constructing a 1,549-square-foot tennis center building at the complex. The building will have two 10-by-7-foot offices, three storage rooms, a 600-square-foot pro shop, restrooms and a display area.

Wade said the new courts and building will draw larger crowds to tennis tournaments held at the complex. Seven tournaments have already been scheduled for 2007.

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