Kearney City Council approves next steps for tennis facility

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - The Kearney city council hopes a new tennis facility will open up many opportunities for competitive tennis and community growth.

“Yeah I think it's key for economic development which is tourism, which is competitive sports, bring in parents for high school events, collegiate events. Having them come in and participate in tournaments and we really don't have a facility like this so that's why I think you're going to see the university push hard for the outdoor courts as well,” UNK Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance Jon Watts said.

Coaches at UNK, local high schools and recreational teams are hopeful for year round practices and more tournaments in the future with the facility.

UNK students and high school students alike have had to use courts at Harmon Park to practice for all of their teams. But with the new facility they hope that they can have more practice time indoors so they can even have winter tournaments.

“We do spend a little bit of money for our teams to practice off site,” Watts said. “We obviously don't have our own tennis facility so we have to use the community's facilities, fair grounds. occasionally we have to rent out facilities in other communities if we want to do a tournament or something.”

Before they can break ground on the $6.5 million facility, UNK has to secure the rest of the funding through private donations. The city will be applying for a $1.1 million grant and UNK already has $3.5 million to put towards the project.

The city will own the facility and UNK will get to lease from it leaving time for public use.

“We have a great support system, a lot of interest,” Kearney High Tennis Coach Troy Saulsbury said. “The youth program is really huge here in Kearney. I really see this benefitting the adults side as well and really growing that.”

Saulsbury says teams have always hoped for a facility like this and he hopes to even host the state tournament in Kearney one day.

If the funding and grant money comes through this spring, the groundbreaking is slated for the summer of 2020 and the facility would be finished in the summer of 2021.