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Debate Over Tennis Courts Turns Political

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Nov 21 2013 10:10:00 PM AKST

Controversy over a proposed sports complex in west Anchorage. 

Capital funds allotted for a new tennis and recreation center in Anchorage has led to a disagreement between a lawmaker and the Anchorage mayor.

House Finance Co-Chairman Bill Stoltze, (R-Chugiak) told the Anchorage Daily News he was lead to believe the project would cost much less than the estimated 7 to 10 million dollar price tag.

"The comments from Mr. Stoltze quite frankly I don't understand them at all,” Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan told Channel 2.  “We never had a conversation about a certain amount of money for the rec center, but what he has said, I find very disappointing, and quite frankly very disingenuous."

Channel 2 tried to get Stoltze to clarify the comments, but he has yet to return our calls.

The Alaska Tennis Association lobbied the legislature for a new tennis facility that would serve high school varsity teams and the general public. 

An affidavit sent to the Alaska Legislature outlines a list of upgrades the municipality wants to have done under the “Project 80's” program. The total price tag is 37 million dollars, and included on that list is the new recreation center.

Critics say funds for the tennis center should not have been disbursed under the Project 80's label, which includes the Egan Center, Loussac Library and Sullivan Arena.

"Keep in mind there is money in there for Ben Boeke Ice Arena,” said Sullivan.  “Ben Boeke is not a Project 80's facility.  It was built in 1974.  The Harry MacDonald Center was not a Project 80's facility."

The mayor is supporting a proposal by Assemblyman Tim Steele, which would build a new tennis center next to the Dempsey Ice Arena for a slightly cheaper price tag, 7.7 million dollars.

Turnagain Community Council President Cathy Gleason is concerned about the impact the facility would have on traffic. She also wishes the project would have come with a price tag when it was presented to her council in February.

"It's unfortunate that it wasn't more of a transparent process.  If it had been made very clear, and had been funded as a standalone project."

The mayor says he's opposed to another alternative that would put 4 million dollars into escrow so the municipality could purchase an existing facility owned by the Alaska Club and turn that into a recreation center.

He says cities cannot use public funds to buy private facilities.

Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall says public comment on the matter has concluded, and a vote on either proposal is scheduled for the December 3rd assembly meeting.