BY GREG CUNNINGHAM
My wife, Andrea, and I celebrated our 30th year in Los Alamos last summer. We both love our adopted town, but when we first moved here in 1992 we were dismayed by the antiquated infrastructure for public facilities, local businesses and housing. We have witnessed a gratifying modernization of many aspects of the town ever since, led by dedicated and visionary people working in County government, serving on County Councils and School Board, managing private enterprises and community volunteers. Andrea served on the School Board in part to ensure that our schools would be modernized. The State of New Mexico had ranked the facility quality in some of our schools in the ‘top 10 worst’ in the state and was willing to help finance modernization, but wanted the community to take on some of the financial burden. Skeptics said ‘why do we need a new school; it was good enough when my kids went there xx years ago?’ The ‘what we have is good enough’ refrain is a common one when some advocate for improved facilities, but fortunately most of the community supported school modernization. Every time I walked in the high school main entry for an orientation or meeting, the open and welcoming feel made me appreciative of the effort many people dedicated to making this happen. I recall similar opposition to many other modernization projects, including the new libraries in Los Alamos and White Rock, the skateboard park, the splash pool, the addition of a Family pool area at the Blue Whale, the construction of a new clubhouse at the golf course, the building of the Reel Deal theater, the Senior Center and the building of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center. Many of these efforts modernized or entirely replaced facilities that had become outdated, inadequately served the community, and reflected poorly on our town. Now we have out-of-town guest exclaiming about the beauty of these facilities, just like they have always acknowledged the beauty of the wilderness that surrounds us.
By contrast, our community’s tennis courts have not been modernized in the half century since they were built. They are not ‘good enough’ for many reasons that have been articulated in other commentaries and I will only summarize here: 1) the soil on which the courts were built does not have a composition that allows the surface be maintenance free, 2) the concrete in the foundation was not post-tensioned, further exacerbating the need for frequent resurfacing, 3) the courts do not have separators, allowing balls to travel easily from one court to the next and interrupt play, 4) there are no permanent windscreens, 5) there is inadequate seating, 6) there are not enough courts in one place to host USTA matches (which require five) or host the high school district tournament (eight), and 6) there is a burgeoning pickleball community that desperately needs some of the existing tennis courts to be dedicated to that sport, which has different net and lines than tennis. The inadequate base and foundation mean that a year or two after resurfacing, the courts have cracks and chips that make the court look neglected and affect play even when resurfacing is done every 3-5 years, which has not been the case recently. The problems mentioned above are unique to Los Alamos. NONE of the public (or private) courts that our USTA teams play on suffer from these problems. They all have defect-free surfaces on ALL of their courts, with court separators and adequate player seating, and most have permanent windscreens. Indeed, players and family from out-of-town teams frequently comment that they can’t believe how poor the facilities are in Los Alamos. The tennis community has advocated for a new facility for 15 years, and the better part of a million dollars has been spent over that time on studies and preliminary designs with no progress. While many other aspects of town have been modernized in ways that both Andrea and I fully support even when we don’t directly benefit, tennis has fallen way behind. While the price tag is admittedly high, it is not out of line with the many modernization efforts mentioned above. Los Alamos, it is way past time to modernize our tennis courts. We hope that the rest of the community will join us in supporting the proposed complex in White Rock as part of our town’s recent history of modernization, something we should all take pride in and enjoy.