City commissioners met with some resistance to changing the floor covering of the Agri-Business Building during a study session on Sept. 20.

It came in the form of a large group of tennis players and administrators from local educational institutions who attended the public meeting.

The tennis players also brought with them a petition, signed by many people, that requests that tennis remain a part of the Ag Building.

In recent weeks, the city has begun renovations on the building, including fixing the roof, replacing mildewed materials and making the bathrooms more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The final total cost of the renovations is likely to be around $150,000, which includes many upgrades such as two large ceiling fans that have been installed, replacing the old furnaces and adding decorative paneling to the interior of the building.

One of the items that has been a point of conversation is the flooring of the building, which is currently the same as an outdoor tennis court.

City Manager Nick Hernandez has suggested removing the current floor covering, treating the existing concrete and sealing it, which would make the facility more versatile for individuals and groups that wish to rent it.

“We’re trying to get the utilization up,” Hernandez said during the meeting.

Rental and other financial obligations

There also was talk of increasing rental fees and offering hourly rates.

Currently, rental fees average $4,350 a year, although several local entities do not currently pay rental fees.

The Arkansas City Indoor Tennis Association does pay approximately $1,200 per year, but it does not have a current contract with the city for utilization of the building. The last agreement signed by the Indoor Tennis Association outlined an annual cost of rental of $1,250.

This contract expired in December 2008.

Prior to that agreement, going back as far as the 1980s, the annual fee was $3,250 and included a court fee of $2 per hour, Hernandez said.

The contract that expired in 2008 also listed regular maintenance of the playing surface as a financial obligation of the tennis association.

In previous meetings, there were discussions about leaving the surface at its concrete base with added top coats. This process would cost around $67,000 and has a life expectancy of 40 years. To refinish the floor with a new tennis court surface would cost an additional $13,000.

If the tennis court surface were to remain, Hernandez indicated a proposed contract with the tennis association could include a clause that would make the refinishing of the court a financial obligation of the association.

“Thirteen thousand dollars every five years is not a substantial amount of money,” he said. “The association can plan for it.”

Diversifying tennis courts

“If we were to put basketball striping in here, would that be a problem?” Mayor Dan Jurkovich asked J.C. Louderback, a member of the Indoor Tennis Association.

“Well, your high schools are set up with the different striping. I’m not sure what the basketball is gonna bring…” Louderback replied.

The idea behind adding additional striping on the courts for other sports is to allow for increased utilization, Hernandez said.

One entity he mentioned was Cowley College. “My question is, would it be used by the college?” Louderback asked.

Shane Larson, athletic director for Cowley College, indicated there could be usage from Student Life because the courts that currently are available to students are in a building that now is dedicated to wrestling.

Additional striping would cost more initially.

“We have nationally ranked teams … that use this facility,” said USD 470 tennis coach Aaron O’Donnell, referring to Cowley and Southwestern colleges. “If it’s raining out, I can bring them in here,” he said of teams he coaches for the school district. “I’ve been able to do it for 25 years.”

“So adding basketball lines would affect that?” Hernandez asked.

“I think there’s enough gyms around town without making this basketball as well, between the Rec Center and the schools,” O’Donnell said.

“Are the schools accessible to anybody? They’re not, are they?” asked Commissioner Duane Oestmann.

“The Rec Center is though, but they have their own programming for their own court,” O’Donnell said.

“The reason to add more lines is so that we can get more people in here so it doesn’t look like this again,” Jurkovich said.

One member of the Indoor Tennis Association questioned what kind of wear and tear the courts would see if basketball was an option.

“Well, how durable is the surface?” Oestmann asked. “If you (re)do it every five years, it won’t be an issue,” Hernandez said.

Commissioner Kanyon Gingher pointed out the proposed contract would have the Indoor Tennis Association paying for wear and tear that might not be due to its own usage, but rather to the actions of other entities that rent or use the facility.

Hernandez conceded that point, but also pointed out that the association isn’t paying standard rental fees.

“I don’t think the association should take on the floor if it’s a multipurpose facility,” O’Donnell said.

Parks and Facilities Director Tony Tapia mentioned at previous meetings that the flooring does limit some other activities, such as dancing.

There also been has discussion about the difficulty of keeping the surface clean and unstained, due to its heavily porous nature.

“I don’t play tennis, so don’t be offended (when I ask this), but can you play tennis on concrete?” Jurkovich asked.

“You would want it to be a little rough,” Louderback said.

“The more grip you put on that, the harder it’s going to be to clean,” Hernandez said of the finished concrete.

“I’d say, this is the surface I’d like to see on there,” Louderback said of the tennis court surface.

Gingher expressed concern that by making it more expensive for the Indoor Tennis Association to function, there could be individuals who are priced out of the sport. “To not price them out, you leave the leaky roof…” Jurkovich said.

“We need to remember indoor tennis courts in this area are a novelty. It’s a big draw to our community,” said Commissioner Karen Welch.

“So if there’s other lines on (the court) but we don’t make you guys pay for the maintenance, but we put on lines for other people to use it, that wouldn’t be a problem for tennis, as long as there’s tennis lines?” Jurkovich asked.

“No,” said USD 470 Superintendent Ron Ballard.

City staff has been tasked with renegotiating a contract with the Indoor Tennis Association that is mutually agreeable, after which the matter will come before the commission again. No formal action was taken at this study session.