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$100,000 in Tennis Programs Donated With Strings Attached

Published On: Nov 15 2013 06:15:00 PM AKST

(KTUU-TV, 11-15-13)


There is a new wrinkle volleying over whether the city should build a new tennis facility. It comes in the form of an enticement from the Alaska Tennis Association.

On Friday, the ATA made a big announcement. During a news conference, Allen Clendaniel, ATA Member, announced a grant by John Hendrickson, a former Anchorage tennis player. Hendrickson gave $100,000 for tennis programs for disadvantaged children and adults or those that are in a wheelchair or developmentally disabled.

The news of the donation comes as the Assembly grapples with how they will spend state money appropriated for a tennis court.

During a Friday interview, Assemblyman Bill Starr said he was surprised when he found $10.5 million in the city budget for a new tennis facility. He said the money came packaged with money to maintain old buildings the city already owns.

"We need to have good stewardship over what we own and have good spending under project 80s classifications,” Starr said. “In this case, the ability to accommodate tennis really goes against that."

As a compromise, Starr has proposed an amendment to the budget that would spend less money. He proposes the city buy the Anchorage Club North's tennis facility. The existing facility is for sale for under $5 million.

"I hear the tennis community, but I believe we can put a compromise that doesn't take entire blocks of money,” Starr said. “The purpose of that money is fixing those buildings up."

If the city opted for the cheaper facility, the donation is off the table. Clendaniel noted three conditions, which proposes that the facility be built in West Anchorage by 2014. 

John Hendrickson donated the money in honor of the late Anchorage tennis player, Cathy Tracy. His brother, Ed Hendrickson, was at the news conference to talk about the donation and the new facility. Ed says if there isn't a new facility, there won't be a donation.

"The purpose was for building a facility at the Dempesy Anderson project," Hendrickson said. 

Hendrickson says he worried if the Assembly opted to do something other than build a new facility, they could lose the state money.

Assembly members disagree about whether this is the case. Starr said it's something  will examine.

Hendrickson says the donation was meant to benefit disabled people and also mentioned the tennis facility off Bragaw doesn’t comply with Americans with Disabilities Act. He noted the stairs to get down to the tennis courts. 

During the donation's announcement, the ATA fielded questions about the political serves and backhands surrounding the new tennis courts.

"We know there are a lot of politics and frankly, we don't like it," Clendaniel said.

Like it or not, the fight isn't over. The Assembly meets on Tuesday (Nov. 19) when they have at least three amendments to consider on the tennis court issue.