My Suburban Life

Park, school districts rally in tennis court dispute

The tennis courts at 53rd Street and South Catherine in La Grange were closed suddenly July 1 after an intergovernmental agreement between the Park District of La Grange and School District 105 was terminated.

The two governmental bodies that have a say in the future of three closed tennis courts at 53rd Street and Catherine Avenue in La Grange soon will meet to discuss solutions.

Elias Lopez, president of the La Grange School District 105 board, on Monday night told fellow board members a meeting is likely the week of Aug. 15 with members of the Park District of La Grange board.

The courts have been closed since July 1 after the park district unanimously decided to not renew a 10-year intergovernmental agreement to maintain the courts and the school district’s insurance company deemed the courts a liability risk because of cracks.

The agreement had ended June 30. In the agreement, the park district pays all the maintenance costs for the courts that are owned by the school district.

Those costs can be $30,000 to $50,000 every three or four years to fill cracks and reseal the courts, Jenny Bechtold, executive director of the park district, said earlier this month.

Lopez said park board President Brian Opyd reached out to him and the two talked last weekend.

“We came to an agreement that our boards should meet,” Lopez said.

Lopez and District 105 Superintendent Brian Ganan are encouraged by the development.

Ganan told the board he has received one estimate that set the renovation price for the three courts at $347,000. “That’s just one estimate,” he said after the meeting.

Asked if the school district would chip in money for tennis courts maintenance, Ganan said, “We still have to work that out.”

Ganan said the community has been very vocal about the tennis courts with close to 400 people signing an online petition urging the two sides to find a solution.

Lopez said he and Opyd “are on the same page” regarding the reopening of the tennis courts.

“We’re looking forward to working together,” Lopez said.

Asked about the courts being closed during the summer months, a prime time for tennis players, Lopez said, “It’s hard.”

But the potential of someone getting injured by tripping on a crack is risk the school district does not want to take.

“Anything can happen,” Lopez said. “Right now, I’d rather go through what we are going through and know that kids are safe.”

During the meeting, school board vice president Robert Sherman said, “None of us thought we’d have to become experts on tennis court repairs and tennis court longevity.”

Sherman said “we can’t fill the cracks with caulk,” adding that doing so “could create more problems.”

Sherman strongly suggested that weeds growing through the cracks be cut down. Ganan said they will be cut.

A phone message left before 9 a.m. Tuesday for Bechtold was not returned by noon.

Earlier this month, Bechtold said, “[The tennis courts] are at the end of life and in need of a capital life cycle replacement.”

The last time the courts were renovated was 2004.

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