SPORTS EDITOR BLOG — Oxford has been a town known for a lot of different things over the years. It’s a football town in the fall, a baseball town in the spring and a very slow town in the middle of the summer. But one thing that Oxford is throughout the year is a tennis town.Area youth and adults play a lot of tennis, as much as any town in the state based on population size, and that number only increases when Ole Miss is in full session. You can drive by the John Leslie Courts during any part of the day and night and see people of all ages playing. It doesn’t matter if the temperatures are extremely cold or hot, the people of Oxford will do what they have to play tennis, even if means waiting and hour or two for a court.
That passion for tennis was shown in force this past Tuesday at the Oxford Conference Center when Oxford Park Commission Executive Director Rob Boyd unveiled the plan to expand the John Leslie Courts to the public for the first time. An audience of almost 200 turned out to show their support for the plan, one that would turn the existing eight courts into a complex consisting of 21 courts, new bathroom facilities, additional parking and new seating areas.
Boyd and a committee consisting of dedicated and involved tennis players, as well as board of aldermen member Dr. Bill Baker, have worked diligently over the past eight months to come up with a viable plan that will effectively improve the existing court area without causing financial strain to the rest of the community.
The plans are well thought out and include aspects that will make Oxford the envy of every other community that plays a lot of tennis in the state. Overall, the project would be a much needed upgrade to an area behind the activity center that has shown its decay for several years now. The new complex would also serve the even bigger need for more courts, cutting down on the wait that so many have to endure to play the sport they love. It would also give the two local high school teams a permanent home for years to come and provide more than enough court space for both of them to play matches at the same time.
LHS has really needed a new home to play its matches. While the Commodores have been able to play at the courts located behind Oxford-University Stadium most recently, their schedule has to accommodate the Rebel baseball team first. That won’t be an issue with the new complex.
Organizers also point out that more state and regional tournaments would be garnered with the complex. More tournaments means more people in town which means more money flowing. In a nutshell, the complex would be used to generate income at strategic times of the year that see very little tourist stops.
These players vote
Boyd and the committee have plans to meet with the board of aldermen as soon as possible and he emphasized the need to make this a joint venture between the city and county at Tuesday’s meeting. That’s a smart and necessary move. Costs have to be offset by several if this complex is going to be built and built properly.
The organizers have already started to take the temperature of local politicians and so far things look good. Not only do they see a need for the courts, they also have to recognize that this tennis demographic votes in mass. And with an election year coming up in the county, that is a major feather in the group’s cap.
(June 26, 2010)