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  • Writer's pictureEmily Berry

Anyone for tennis? It's finally happening

This post first appeared on my original site, published May 25, 2017

School board members tonight at a special meeting unanimously approved spending up to $20,000 in additional funds for tennis/futsal courts at Lake Bluff Elementary.

Their decision was made easier by some donors who helped close the gap between the original and revised cost estimates for the courts. The SEED Foundation, which donated $25,000, deserves credit for showing that the community supports the project. Along with $5,000 from the Lake Bluff PTO and more from individual donors, the new support made the district's additional spending easier for the more skeptical board members to swallow.

Construction is expected to begin as the school year ends, costing around $261,000. The courts will be located behind the school where currently a small soccer field (more often used as a dog run or not used at all) sits adjacent the parking lot.

Besides the persuasive power of additional donations, during the public comments period of the meeting, board members heard from a series of people who supported completing the courts. They pointed out the value of an additional set of courts for student athletes who want to play tennis and futsal -- including our boys' high school tennis team, which happens to be doing quite well this year.

My friend Jenny Vulpas told a story of a friend's son who learned tennis playing at the old tennis courts at Lake Bluff. (The old courts were torn down during construction several years ago, and were supposed to have been rebuilt, which started this whole saga). Jenny said this family didn't have a membership to a tennis club, but their son kept playing, winning a state championship, then willing a full ride to college on a tennis scholarship, she said.

Besides these points about the value the courts offer the community, District Development Director Ted Knight made a very compelling case to the board that they should approve the funding simply to keep the public's trust.

Rejecting the funding request would have a negative consequence and "ripple effect," he said, undermining public trust in the district's fundraising efforts. What I heard him say in more diplomatic language was that"no" vote would make his job a lot harder, but would also make theirs harder the next time the district took on a big fundraising or construction project. I hope the board took that advice to heart -- it appears they did.

Thankfully, it seems the board agreed with both the need for the courts and that $20,000 was an amount they could live with spending above the district's original $141,000 commitment to the project (the Village of Shorewood, the Shorewood Foundation, and individual donors agreed to pay the remaining cost).

I'm curious to see whether Mr. Knight and Business and Operations Manager Patrick Miller are able to wrangle any additional funding. Mr. Knight said that even with district funding approved, "it's not like we're turning fundraising off," and mentioned the local soccer league, the soccer fanatics at Three Lions Pub, and other local and national organizations as potential donors.

School board member Joanne Lipo Zovic said she wanted to see the Village government pay for part of the additional cost, since our school facilities really serve as parks (a very valid point). Mr. Knight said he and Mr. Miller met with the interim village manager but did not secure any funding from the village (something I assume would be up to the trustees, not the manager, but I digress).

It seems like the Village would have little incentive to give more money since the project is now apparently fully funded, but who knows? Ms. Lipo Zovic's husband serves on the Village Board of Trustees, so maybe she can make the case to him over the dining room table ;-)

I live a few blocks from Lake Bluff, so I'll keep you all updated when I hear construction starting!

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