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St. James tennis unveils new courts following summer makeover

Sean Ellertson
The new state-of-the-art tennis courts at St. James High School.

On August 2nd, the St. James tennis program and St. James Public Schools unveiled the newly refurbished tennis courts to a crowd of about 50 people of all ages.

Activities Director and head tennis coach Les Zellmann first started looking into the idea of resurfacing the St. James tennis courts approximately five years ago.

"There was a resurfacing that took place in 2018 but after that winter we had the same issues with resurfacing," said Zellmann. "We had over 600 feet over linear cracks on the court. The recommendation is that anytime you get over 300 (feet) you have to start thinking about it, certainly, if it gets over 400 (feet) you need to be replacing your courts."

Back in 2006, tennis players were used to  help fix and fill cracks in the playing surface, recalls Zellmann.

Numerous resurfacing companies declined to take on the challenge of the resurfacing the courts because they knew what the issue was. 

Last summer, Zellmann and the school board launched an investigation to see what the problem was lying beneath the surface of the courts.

In the fall, a boring (drilling) study was done to the courts, which did not yield any results leaning towards water issues.

As the project looked for a solution, the idea of a post-tension system rose to the top of the list.

Other programs around the region— both collegiately and at the high school level— have started to implement post-tension systems.

The bids for post-tension systems and asphalt came in at similar prices. Despite the post-tension system costing more upfront, the durability of the post-tension system gave it the edge it needed.

"Normally, an asphalt-based court will be maybe half the price of post-tension concrete," said Zellmann. "But because there would have been a tremendous amount of subsurface work being done, that brought the asphalt base (price) relatively close."

Asphalt prices ranged from $770,000 to $1.1 million. The final bid for the post-tension system came in at $880,000.

Asphalt-based courts typically last around 25 years. Post-tension systems typically last around 50 years.

The surfacing of the courts is completed, but extra work, such as providing shading for viewers, installing windscreens along the north and south ends, and touching up some landscaping still need to be done.

To help fund these projects, the tennis program received $10,000 from the Mayo Foundation and $35,000 from the U.S. Tennis Association.

To receive funding from the U.S.T.A., adjustments were made in terms of court access, variety of court usage for various ages of tennis, and safety along court boundaries. 

The first official action on the tennis courts was this past weekend with the Smithfield City Tennis Championship tournament and will see more tennis play in the Davis Team Cup on Saturday.