Tennis Is Not A Function of Government

You would think we would not have to explain that headline to people. But there are some people in Anne Arundel County who really think it’s county government’s job to build a tennis center according to an op-ed in The Capital.

In a Sunday editorial by Louis Gengler Thomas, the President of the “Tennis Alliance of Anne Arundel County” wrote an op-ed entitled, and I’m not making this up, Anne Arundel County must recommit to building a tennis center.

Seven years ago, Anne Arundel County’s Department of Recreation and Parks designated a community tennis center as a priority project in their 2013 five-year plan and again in 2018. Three county administrations have approved the project in all of its stages of development.

The Tennis Center at Millersville Park provides much needed indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities in Anne Arundel County for our youth, families, seniors, those with disabilities, underserved communities, and much more.

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Studies have been completed, and every County Council has approved the project. Funding includes $990,000 for studies, design and engineering approved in 2016, and $6.53 million in 2019 for construction planned to begin in Spring 2020.

Where is our tennis center?

As it turns out, the Tennis Center has been on the books for a while now. And recently the project was no longer a priority of the Administration of Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. Thomas reports that Pittman told attendees at a budget town hall that “It is not exactly the same project that was put into the budget. It is a different project now because that was a project that I was a supporter of because it was private funding being raised for the indoor facility and then it was going to be a tournament facility. So the picture has changed and there are a lot of discussions going on about which way to move … so stay tuned on that.”

Think about how far afield a public works project is for even wealth horseman Steuart Pittman to say no?

Pittman, unbelievably, is actually doing the right thing. That problem was the fact that the Tennis Center was even on the books in the first place. The aforementioned Rec and Parks five-year plan was started under the administration of John Leopold and completed under the administration of Laura Neuman, both Republicans. The plan was adopted by the County Council when it was (on paper at least) controlled by Republicans. So this isn’t an issue where Democrats were necessarily driving the bus here.

The problem is why a tennis center was even on the drawing board for Anne Arundel Rec and Parks to start with? What inherently government function exists that calls for the county to run a tennis center? How are people who aren’t tennis players helped by this?

We’re not talking about creating a park that is usable by everybody and provides green space. We’re not talking about a park of historical significance. We’re talking about a tennis center that will predominantly be used by those who play tennis: upper-class white suburbanites. Ironically, a large number of those pushing this tennis center are probably registered Republicans who vote for politicians who against wasteful spending. And a tennis center is wasteful spending that apparently these folks feel entitled too. Why else would they be complaining where “our” tennis center is?

This structure is reminiscent of the push for bike lanes and bike paths across the county, except the parties are reversed and a tennis center is exponentially more expensive than a bike plan or a bike path.

The fact is that the Tennis Center at Millersville Park is of no benefit to average Anne Arundel County Taxpayers. Promoting tennis and providing additional courts for people to play on serves no government purpose, particularly due to the number of public courts and private tennis clubs already available to county residents. If the Tennis Alliance of Anne Arundel County wants to build a massive Tennis Center, let them raise the private capital to build a private facility on private land. Tennis is not a function of government at any level, and a massive and expensive Tennis Center should have no place in the county budget or the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks master plan.


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