Workers from Midwest Sports remove tennis nets in preparation for repairs to courts in La Grange that have been closed since July of 2022. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Workers from Midwest Sports remove tennis nets in preparation for repairs to courts in La Grange that have been closed since July of 2022. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

La Grange tennis courts will soon re-open after settlement

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Midwest Sports employees repair cracks in the tennis courts at 53rd and Catherine in La Grange. Closed for more than a year due to safety concerns, the courts should re-open for play soon.

By Steve Metsch

Tennis balls will soon again be flying at La Grange courts that have been closed for more than a year.

Thanks to an agreement between La Grange School District 105 and the La Grange Park District, three courts at the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Catherine Avenue will again be open for play.

Gates to the courts had been padlocked since July 1, 2022.

“Our hope is mid-July,” District Supt. Brian Ganan said when he was asked when the courts will reopen.

“(The new surface) has to cure and we hope to paint the lines,” he said. “We want to get people out there playing again.”

That news should be warmly greeted by the many tennis players often seen there from dawn to dusk except in the winter and rainy days.

Many children have learned to ride their bikes there. Heated games of Whiffle Ball and street hockey are often played on the courts, which are not lighted.

On July 30, 2022, the third of three straight 10-year agreements that had the park district in charge of maintenance of the courts expired. The school district owns the courts.

The park district board decided to not renew the agreement.

When that happened, the school district’s insurance company recommended closing the courts, which had large cracks and could lead to injuries and lawsuits.

Tennis players were not happy.

The two sides, however, eventually came to an agreement that will result in shouts of “love 20.”

“We transferred the ownership back to the school (district),” Jenny Bechtold, executive director of the park district, said on June 21.

“We did give them $85,000 to help them make improvements. We wanted to keep the courts intact,” she said.

Last summer, Bechtold said that because the park district “has limited resources,” it opted out of renewing the 10-year deal.

Supt. Brian Ganan confirmed on June 28 that the $85,000 is being used for the renovations.

“It should, yes, cover just about all (of the cost). That’s the goal,” Ganan said.

Workers from Midwest Sports started repairing the courts in mid-June.

“We were quite pleased because they weren’t supposed to start until mid-July. It was a nice surprise that they came here when they did,” Ganan said.

After the cracks are filled, “it’s almost like a new surface, so it should look really nice. You won’t see the cracks.”

“It’s a very durable, long-lasting surface. That’s important to us,” Ganan said.

The sudden closure last year was met with outrage by many in the community. An on-line petition started by La Grange resident David Wong received 452 signatures from folks wanting the courts repaired and re-opened..

On July 9, 2022, players like Nick Bailey, who lives a block away in Countryside, were floored to discover the three courts padlocked.

“It’s disappointing they can’t figure out some kind of compromise to keep it going. It’s going to sit there, be inviting, and nobody can use it,” Bailey said that day.

Ganan said the school district “didn’t want to shut the courts down.” But its hand was forced by the insurance company that deemed the courts a liability risk.

He and Bechtold both heard from frustrated tennis players last year.

Bechtold said last year “(the tennis courts) are at the end of life and in need of a capital life cycle replacement.”

The last time the courts were completely renovated was in 2004. Regular maintenance can be “quite expensive,” she said.

“It depends one that you need to have done, but to crack fill and reseal every three to four years can be anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000. And, it’s getting more expensive,” Bechtold said last year.

The park district does maintain four tennis courts at Gilbert Park and four more at Sedgwick Park.

“We want to support recreation at parks throughout the community, but, again, we do have limited resources,” Bechtold said. “We have our own facilities and infrastructure that we need to take care of as well.”

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