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Tennis community excited about Sargent courts now being open to the public for free

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The ball is now in the court of community members who wanted full access to tennis courts at Sargent Park.

For the last 10 years, the Sargent Park Tennis Gardens had a deal with the city to operate and maintain the six courts. However, some in the community say the court's hours and fees are out of bounds.

This week, a city committee decided not to renew the non-profit's lease agreement so members of the public can use the facility 24-7 for free under the city's operation.

Coun. Cindy Gilroy and a group of local tennis enthusiasts convinced the property committee to not renew the lease.

"It really wasn't working out for the community," said Gilroy. "It was cost prohibitive for many of our inner city residents and really, we wanted to have a place everyone could go."

Jery Laforteza loves that the courts are now open to the public, saying he felt the $10 fee to use them was a barrier and the hours were too limited.

"Public (means) you have full access, anytime you want to play, anytime you want to leave, seven days a week. That's what I call public," said Laforteza.

But the outgoing lessee worries the courts will now fall into disrepair.

"It will go downhill," said George Kylar with the Sargent Park Tennis Gardens. "Will somebody go there if you have a windy day with leaves all over?"

He said the gate is locked off hours for security reasons and, he kept the courts swept and nets tight.

He added the operation brought in big tennis tournaments.

"We made it so it looks like that you are almost arriving to the U.S. Open. So people come from everywhere."

The community group and councillors in favour of ending the lease are promising the courts will get tender loving care, through volunteers, fundraising, and grants, if necessary.

"We'll find a way to keep that place clean, to make that place safe, to make that place playable," said Laforteza.

The city's parks division estimates it will cost $5,000 a year to sweep the courts, replace the nets and paint the lines.

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