News from Patrick Flynn

Match point

After months of painfully long discussions about the allocation of state capital funds the Assembly failed to decide on December 3 how to handle the artificial “tennis versus hockey” argument.  It’s not clear how this ersatz “choice” found its way into the dialogue, since facilities for both activities could be well-funded, but it set the stage for injecting excess emotion into an already complicated decision.  (It’s worth noting we’ve already allocated $20.6 million in state grant monies to upgrade area hockey facilities.)

So let’s go back to the basics – do we, as a community and a state, think tennis is a sport worthy of support; much as we think of basketball, Nordic skiing, track, volleyball, hockey and at least a dozen others?  In general, the answer seems to be yes.  Given that, the question becomes how to sustain the sport.

Prior to last year it was pretty simple; Alaska had private indoor facilities that could support tennis in several communities and the Alaska Club North was sufficient to host the state high school tournament.  Not to mention the numerous outdoor courts available to more casual players.  Then the dynamic changed.

The Alaska Club announced plans to sell their North club, with a no-tennis clause in the sale agreement, and expand their East club in a manner that would not necessarily support the larger needs of the tennis community.  Rather than work this out with the club, the Alaska Tennis Association created a proposal to build a publicly owned facility adjacent to the Dempsey-Anderson hockey arena in West Anchorage.  Enlisting the support of avid tennis players like Dan Sullivan and Lindsey Holmes, they achieved a significant increment to the state capital budget to move the project forward.  The next step was Assembly appropriation of the funds.

But nothing is ever so simple.  Some Assembly members are reasonably flummoxed by the inclusion of funds for a new facility into a budget line item for critical and deferred maintenance.  Further, several legislators have complained they didn’t know what they were voting on or were deceived by the mayor (I consider that more an indictment of shortfalls in the state budget process than anything else).

Now, having appropriated over $20 million for hockey-related facilities, we have some amount of money available to address tennis facilities.  So what would make the most sense?

My initial thought was that, rather than construct something new, the municipality should figure out how to obtain the Alaska Club North.  Then the Alaska Club managed to dissuade me – here’s how:

  • Initially the Alaska Club marketed their north club at $4.75 million, with a non-compete (no tennis) clause.
  • More recently the Alaska Club has marketed the facility for $3.4 million, still with the non-compete clause.
  • A private developer informed me he had a $3.1 million option for that facility, still with the non-compete clause, this spring.
  • In light of the legislative appropriation the Alaska Club has offered to make $600,000 in improvements and sell it to the municipality for $6.2 million without the non-compete clause – about a $2.5 million premium, depending on valuation.  (You’ll forgive me if I’m unimpressed.)
  • And, if that weren’t enough, purchasing the facility would require the municipality to get approval from the same group of state legislators who helped create this mess in the first place (color me pessimistic).

So, somewhat to my surprise, I find myself supporting the original plan – a new facility adjacent to Dempsey-Anderson.  The latest price tag is $7.2 million and, while I doubt I’ll be sympathetic if project supporters ask for additional financial support, it seems to be the best available option.



This contribution was made on Wednesday, 04. December 2013 at 07:12 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Your account resonates, in large part because it is consistent with what I heard and read long before this flap hit the media. As the father of an avid tennis player, I will recuse myself from any recommendation on how to proceed. However, were I motivated the “make the case” for your preference on how to go forward, I would present a sustainable financial model for operating and maintaining the facility. The ATA’s $100K pledge (which would presumably help fund staff positions and equipment) is a start, but absent a realistic revenue model that will keep the facility open and in good repair, we risk saddling Anchorage taxpayers with another “pool problem”- ie, a good and worthy recreational facility that we can’t afford.

    Comment: Jacques Boutet – 04. December 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  2. How about an expansion of the Spenard rec center?

    Comment: hfree – 04. December 2013 @ 8:24 pm

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