Public clay court plan advances

A group of tennis enthusiasts hoping to bring a new playing surface to the public realm have reached an agreement with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to fundraise for two clay courts at Waveland Triangle in Linden Hills.

Minneapolis Community Clay Courts (MCCC) entered a formal fundraising agreement with the MPRB on June 26, allowing the group to raise money, design and construct the courts. The agreement would make MCCC the steward of the clay courts for up to 10 years.

The group is hoping to raise about $200,000 for the project between grants and individual donations, according to Charles Weed, a Kingfield resident who is a leader of MCCC.  One possible grant source is the United States Tennis Association, the sport’s governing body in the U.S. Local clay court advocates hope the group will provide around $30,000 for the project, Weed said, a big part of making the vision a reality.

“This would be the type of project we look to support,” said Becky Cantellano, executive director of USTA Northern, which is based in Bloomington.

There is only one publicly accessible club with clay courts in the Twin Cities, the St. Paul Tennis Club, according to Cantellano. But that club still requires people pay for membership and has a long waiting list, she said.

Clay courts, advocates say, are better suited for older players because the surface is easier on the knees and hips.

Regularly caring for the surface creates a sense of ownership and community, MCCC argues, and the porous surface is better for the environment. Game play is slower and more tactile on the soft surface, too.

“The playability is a big deal on clay courts,” Weed said.

Two clay courts are in the preferred concept design for Waveland Triangle in the Southwest Area Master Plan, which is still being debated by a community action committee and will go before park commissioners for official adoption in August or September.

The MPRB has agreed to provide water access to the courts; clay tennis courts require regular water care to maintain the integrity of the clay. There are two irrigation options being considered by the MCCC: above-ground and sub-surface. An above-ground sprinkler-type system would cost less up front, about $100,000, Weed said. A sub-surface irrigation system would cost nearly double that, he said, but reduces maintenance labor needs, saves on water cost
and is considered ideal.

“We could certainly do it above ground and that would work just fine,” Weed said.

Currently, all public courts in Minneapolis are hard-surface. The MPRB resurfaces the courts every 12–15 years for around $10,000 per court, and every 25 years or so the courts are reconstructed entirely for between $50,000 to $60,000 per court. The Park Board estimates the yearly maintenance of a hard court is around $2,400.

The clay courts will be made using Har-Tru, a finely crushed green stone, which would be reapplied annually and cost about $1,000 per year. Maintaining the courts is expected to cost an additional $1,000 annually.

Ultimately, MCCC aims to get clay courts in all six park districts of the city.