Kent tennis courts deserve respect, preservation
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 19:02
To all my fellow Delaware tennis players, President Patrick Harker is playing the world’s cruelest April Fool’s Day joke on us. If you have not heard yet, the tennis courts by Kent Dining Hall are set to be demolished on Apr. 1 in order to make room for a new dorm and dining hall. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.
Are you better now? Good. To be fair, the courts have been showing their age, with cracks in the DecoTurf and only one set of floodlights currently working. Still, the courts are our little corner of the world.
When I first came to the university, I was excited to live in Smyth Hall because it was next to the tennis courts. Since last spring, I have been out almost every day practicing my serve-and-volley game. It was my stress relief as I could just pop over after a stressful day in the office and slam a few serves to relax. But that will end now.
The people most affected by the removal of Kent Courts are the club tennis team players. Sophomore Lexi Chlada, the president of the team, said no one ever told the club or asked for student opinion. Now the team has to travel down to the public tennis courts by the Newark Septa/Amtrak train station. The club team was supposed to train at Kent for Nationals the week after Apr. 1, but now they’ll have to search for court-time elsewhere.
Whatever happened to the notion of a “well-rounded” education? In the 19th century, world leaders were made on the rugby fields of Eton, Oxford and Cambridge. Living the college life is not just about partying and going to class—it is also about relaxing and joining friends in all types of sporting endeavors.
In my dad’s time at Delaware in the early 1970s, there were many places to play tennis on campus. The Bob Carpenter Sports Building had four tennis courts, in addition to the eight at Kent, two at Rodney and one at Laird Campus. Nowadays, the four at the Carpenter Sports Building have been replaced with turf soccer fields, and with Kent’s eight being removed by parking lots for Cannon and New Castle Halls, there will only be three courts students can use.
These few remaining courts foster good interactions between students. Many times when I go down to hit serves, there are always people laughing and having a good time. I even reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen since I was 12. The destruction of the Kent Courts is the equivalent to banning the drum circles you see out on The Green in the spring. Both practices allow students to bond over non-academic activities and further express their common interests in a public manner.
At the Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 1, 2012 I asked Harker about the courts and he told me they were replacing them with new ones, but did not specify where. Now, the tennis players of the university would like to know: are the courts being built? And if so, when and where?
There are two good spots on campus for the new courts—one could be Rodney after they tear it down. Theoretically, the university could turn that area into a tennis-specific center, with public outdoor courts, as well as indoor and outdoor courts for the club and varsity teams to practice. Another good spot is the grass field next to the turf fields behind the new Bob Carpenter Sports Building addition. The space is large enough for three tennis courts, plus the new addition blocks the sun, which is a positive feature for outdoor tennis courts to have.
These courts are a landmark for any player on campus, past or present. Some of my favorite stories of my dad’s time on campus involve those courts. Stepping onto the Kent tennis courts, one can almost imagine the great battles among friends throughout time, like an old picture from a photo taken with now obsolete Kodachrome film showing all the details and crisp colors of the past. I like to envision my dad playing with a few friends while swinging one of those wonderful wooden racquets of yore.
But the future of tennis at the university all comes down to Harker. Does he really want to be remembered as the president who just built new buildings, or does he want to leave a lasting impression as a president who listened to students’ concerns? This is what I, along with some of the other tennis players on campus, want to know. In all seriousness, the ball is in his court.
Jack Cobourn is a guest columnist for The Review. His viewpoints do not necessarily represent those of The Review staff. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.