BUSD talks 2 potential sites for new Berkeley High School tennis courts

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At its meeting Wednesday, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education discussed proposals for the development of tennis courts at Berkeley High School.

Berkeley High School has been without tennis courts since 2001, after the courts were renovated into a staff parking lot on Milvia Street. In January, BUSD approved the allocation of $5 million in Measure I construction bond funds for the redevelopment of the staff parking lot into a two-story parking garage with five tennis courts on top.

Upon review of the project, however, the estimated cost of reconstruction ranged closer to $11 million. The difference in the $5 million approved by the board and the estimated cost of the project has prompted an additional proposal that the courts be developed on the open space at Moellering Field on Milvia Street. The proposed development plan for Moellering Field includes the construction of five courts replacing a grass field at an estimated cost of $3 million.

Members of Berkeley High’s tennis teams, along with coaches and parents, gathered at the meeting with signs that read, “Tennis empowers our youth” and, “It’s time to build BHS tennis courts.” Because of the absence of courts on their own campus, players and coaches voiced issues that have arisen from having to hold practices at other locations, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Berkeley High has also not included tennis as part of its PE curriculum because it does not have courts on site, so many community members expressed the necessity of bringing tennis courts closer to the high school campus.

Neighbors of Moellering Field, however, expressed concerns during the meeting about the development of tennis courts at the site, arguing that the construction would take open space away from the community.

Peter Waller, a neighbor to Moellering Field, voiced his opposition to construction at the location and alleged that the proposal was not communicated well to residents.

“This is really about (the) South Berkeley community, a much larger community,” Waller said at the meeting. “(There is) less open space (here) than other parts of Berkeley, (a) way denser population. … This community needs this open space, needs it desperately.”

A number of players and community members spoke before the board, urging for the construction of the tennis courts, with some advocating for development at either location and others encouraging that the district follow through with the initial plan to renovate the staff parking lot.

Peter Wright, Cal men’s tennis head coach and a Berkeley High alumnus, stated at the meeting that the preferred location for the courts is its original location at the staff parking lot because girls’ tennis teams, boys’ tennis teams and PE classes could all use those courts. He added, however, that Moellering Field is also a viable and economical option.

“We’re asking that you choose either location for building tennis courts for Berkeley High School,” Wright said at the meeting. “Our large tennis community is ready, enthusiastically there to support you. We’re counting on you. We’ve waited long enough.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.