by Kate Evans
Morgan County Tennis Association Chairman Ryan Fincham asked the Morgan County School Board last month to approve a location for four regulation-sized courts. That will allow the group to seek additional funding for court construction. Fincham updated school board members on the effort at the school board’s July 31 meeting with a crowd of local supporters and student tennis players on hand.
Fincham also requested that the board authorize a site plan be developed for the project at Warm Springs Middle School beside the soccer fields.
The plan could be funded through their collected funds or joint school and tennis association funds.
Already secured funding
Fincham said the Morgan County Tennis Association has $50,000 committed to building the tennis facility. That includes $6,500 of their own seed money, $25,000 pledged from the Morgan County Commission, a private donation of $10,000 from Ashton Clay, $5,000 earmarked from Morgan County Parks & Recreation and $3,500 committed by Valley Health. The facility is expected to cost $200,000.
The group is at a stalemate to pursue more funding since they don’t have a designated approved location for the tennis facility, he said.
They plan to partner with the school board, the County Commission and Parks and Recreation as well as the United States Tennis Association, Valley Health and public and private donors to create a regulation-sized tennis facility for the high school teams, youth programs and Morgan County citizens and visitors.
“We aim for our high school team to play on those courts in the spring of 2020,” Fincham said.
Fincham said the Berkeley Springs High School Boys and Girls tennis teams were established in 2004. The teams never had a home tennis match since a home match requires four regulation-sized courts in playable condition.
The high school boys’ and girls’ tennis teams under Head Coach Raynette Mock were Potomac Valley Champions last year and many students have gone to the state tennis tournament to compete, Fincham noted. Countless kids from age four to high school age have taken tennis clinics with Paula Osborne at Biser Street.
Osborne was recently selected for the 2018 Governor’s Service Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to tennis in Morgan County.
Many tennis programs have six, eight or 12 courts, but the group is planning to build the minimum number of courts to host tennis matches, Fincham said.
Fincham believed the tennis association and partners could fund a minimum of 50% of the project. He hoped the school board would fund 50% since the school system has a varsity sport with nowhere to play matches.
“We are willing to work with the schools to make those courts a reality,” Fincham said.
School board vice-president Pete Gordon asked Fincham if they had a location where they could expand from four courts. Fincham said some counties had four courts at one place and two to four courts elsewhere.
Mock, head tennis coach and tennis association treasurer, asked for school board support to build the tennis courts.
Her daughter started playing tennis in sixth grade and went on to play tennis in college as have other local students. One year they had 32 kids come out for the high school tennis teams. Mock said teams are traveling as far as five hours away to play matches and sometimes play three matches in one day while other teams play one.
Osborne has 26-30 kids in her youth tennis group. They could have junior varsity matches at the middle school and feed into the high school program with a tennis facility, Mock said.
Student Cardin Beal said he’d really like to have tennis courts for Morgan County Schools so the high school tennis teams could have games on their own turf and the middle school could have courts for a tennis program.
County Commissioner Joel Tuttle, Parks and Recreation board treasurer, said the commission pledged $25,000 towards the tennis facility. The facility could go on the county’s 16-acre property south of the ball field complex or another location if the school board had a better fit.
Tuttle said that it’s hard to go after donors without Board of Education support and a spot for the tennis courts. He suggested a joint meeting with the school board to discuss plans for the facility.
School board president Aaron Close said previously he asked School Superintendent Dr. Erich May to contact Williamson and Shriver Architects about surveying for placement and costs of tennis courts at Warm Springs Middle School beside the soccer fields.
The school board is having a 5:30 p.m. work session on Tuesday, September 4 before their regular meeting to discuss capital improvements and financial priorities.