Tennis group considers building its own facility

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

November 16, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

ADD TENNIS to the list of county sports in which a primary youth organization is beginning to talk about developing new facilities on its own - or maybe with a little involvement by public entities.

The Howard County Tennis Association is a volunteer group that conducts lessons and a couple of tournaments each year for, mainly, children in public schools and in parts of the county without private tennis clubs. Now the group has begun openly talking about a facility it can call its own.

The Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County is building its own field complex, scheduled to open next spring. The Ellicott City-centered Howard County Youth Program is escrowing money for additional baseball and softball fields, and perhaps more. And a couple of weeks ago, the Howard Huskies youth hockey group began beating the drums for additional ice that it would be willing to back financially, at least in part.

And, at the behest of SAC/HC's president, Dave Procida, a number of youth sports groups began talking this spring about banding together to build additional facilities on county-owned land.

SAC/HC also has broken new ground, so to speak, with a deal to revamp and maintain three fields at Howard Community College at its own expense in exchange for exclusive use of them when they are not being used by the college.

The tennis association, which has not been involved in any of that, relies heavily on courts at public schools and in parks for its elementary school program, which this fall, for example, had more than 500 children participate after circulars were distributed in schools. Not bad for a sport some are saying nationally has dying interest, especially among kids.

One big obstacle for the group, though, said its president, Bob Weiss, who lives in Columbia, is its inability to continue with lessons and competition in bad weather and through the cold-weather months.

"If we're going to keep children playing and developing in the sport, we need to have year-round facilities where they can play," Weiss said. "It's one of the reasons tennis in this county loses so many kids to other sports - not being able to play enough."

At a minimum, for starters, Weiss said, the group would like to find courts locally suitable for a bubble to house indoor play - something the private Columbia Park and Recreation Association and the Circle D Farm in Glenwood have.

"We've talked about this for the four or five years of our existence, but at a meeting [last week] of club leaders, we decided to see what we can do as a next step. We'd like the same kind of facility here that Prince George's and Montgomery counties have been able to build."

The group expects to talk with, among others, the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks about possibilities in the near future. The group is willing and able to foot the expense of a bubble, and probably more in the way of facilities, Weiss said, adding: "We have some money in the bank."

He did not say how much, but like the other groups - with the exception of SAC/HC, which escrowed money for a decade before buying land on Centennial Lane, near Centennial Park, for its own Covenant Park - buying land is the huge obstacle to a new facility.

"Our dream would be to have 18 courts, six indoors and 12 outdoors, that we could use for our programs," Weiss said.

HCC's soccer finish

In case you missed it, Howard Community College's women's soccer team - relying heavily on a core of county players - finished third nationally in the National Junior College Athletic Association's final four playoffs in Batavia, N.Y.

The Lady Dragons, scarcely a club team five years ago, got waxed in the semifinals by eventual Division III (nonscholarship schools) champion Mohawk Valley (N.Y.) Community College, 6-0.

But coach Kate Seagroves' team showed a lot of character in rebounding last Sunday in the third-place game, shutting out College of DuPage (Ill.), 3-0. This was the school's first appearance in a soccer final four.

HCC forwards Christen Pena-Ariat, a sophomore from Atholton High, and Jen Snyder, a freshman from Glenelg High, were named to the All-Tournament team.

Hey, all of you in winter sports, clue us in on who's interesting, what's new among your coaches, leaders, players, volunteers. Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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