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City eyes removal of Yacht Club tennis courts

By Staff | Jul 25, 2019

A proposed tennis and pickleball center in the center of the city, coupled with proposed changes to one of the city’s oldest amenities, could mean no more the tennis courts at the Cape Coral Yacht Club.

Numerous residents spoke their mind Monday during the regular Cape Coral City Council meeting, asking the elected board to find a way to keep the courts at the club, as hundreds use them on a daily basis.

However, a preliminary rendering of the new, proposed Yacht Club reconfiguration has no tennis courts, leaving residents concerned they will, as one quoted from the old Joni Mitchell song, “tear down paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Council stressed the plans are not final, pointing out the new engineers who were hired Monday will hold several public meetings to get input from the neighborhood.

Kerry Runyon, director of Cape Coral Parks and Recreation, said it’s only the first inning of a nine-inning game, with residents to get their turn at bat.

“The community park meetings will be held and conducted through Kimley Horn, our design engineer, in October,” Runyon said. “They will receive input, and then a second meeting to discuss the design plan after input.”

Once that is done, City Council will decide whether to approve the plan and/or request changes.

There are five lighted courts at the Yacht Club, which are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Tennis pro staff is available on site for both private and group lessons as well as league play.

Single residents pay $300 annually and $475 for couples. The price drops for seniors 65-plus, where the rates are $275 and $400, respectively. Runyon did not immediately know how many members there are.

Currently, the Lee County Tennis Association plays at the Yacht Club every weekday. However, that is set to change in 2022 once the new tennis and pickleball center is built near Lake Kennedy, part of the $60 million Parks Master Plan. Runyon said the players in the league were OK with it.

Other residents are not.

Steve Averbach plays tennis at the Yacht Club several times a week and was stunned when he learned of the plan this spring which, to him, came out of left field.

“Why would they close the courts that everyone plays on without talking to us first?” Averbach said. “I saw the plan to take the courts out for a parking garage and a restaurant on top. It makes no sense to me.”

Averbach and others were at Monday’s meeting and they spoke up during public input on the consent agenda. In the meantime, he started a group on Next Door to get reaction and said more than 100 attended the first meeting near the courts, with the vast majority wanting to keep them there.

“Kerry told me at the meeting that this was a done deal. The residents had a meeting and were on board with this,” Averbach said in regards to the court removals.

He said that was more about the approval of the $60 million GO Bonds that any details.

Averbach said that the removal of the courts would mean there would be no more courts in the southeast section of the city.

Runyon said the city could leave a court or two if they want a neighborhood court.

Averbach said he was happy that City Council seemed to soften on the idea of keeping them, especially Mayor Joe Coviello, who said he believes recreation and parks are crucial to the city.

“There are people in that area who love those courts, so we need to take that into consideration moving forward,” Coviello said. “We want to hear what people want in their neighborhood as part of the park. These are amenities people enjoy.”