In a last-ditch attempt to save the tennis courts on Dalhousie University’s Studley Campus, one tennis club member has petitioned to raise awareness about the matter.
Tennis club member Catherine Brenan began a change.org petition, “Save Dalhousie Tennis Courts,” with the goal of ensuring Dal doesn’t permanently replace the tennis courts on Studley Campus. The petition calls on the university to build courts somewhere else on campus. It’s also been a chance to get the word out about the issue.
“The first thing I did was make the petition to make sure people knew about the issue,” Brenan said of her response when she heard about the courts. “I also wanted to make sure that when I talked to Dal, they knew there were other people also concerned and not just the tennis team. The public and students were also upset.”
In early January, Dal’s athletic department told the tennis club that the courts across South Street from the Dalplex are being replaced with a parking lot. With the Dalhousie Events Centre’s construction on the lot between Wickwire Field and LeMarchant Place, part of the project is to replace that parking.
Not everyone has agreed with that approach, with their frustration demonstrated through the petition. It has garnered just short of 500 signatures as of Jan. 25.
Along with signatures, comments rolled in from court users, Dal alumni and more.
“I am a Dalhousie grad and 70-year-old tennis enthusiast still competing at a provincial and national level. Please consider the health benefits of offering this sport to your present and future students. These courts changed my life forever!” one petition signee said.
“Tennis is a very important sport. People need it for both physical and psychological well-being,” said another signee. “You can put a parking lot anywhere. This is a very foolish decision.”
Another signee was upset about the prioritization of cars over other modes of transportation, suggesting drivers instead “take the bus.”
Lack of student input
The most upsetting thing for Brenan has been a lack of student input, even from the tennis club, on the matter.
“It seems like Dalhousie didn’t care about student consultation with these issues. That’s what frustrated me the most, that they weren’t willing to discuss it in any way with students,” Brenan said.
She said although she sent emails to various people around Dal and often got responses, almost everyone made it clear the university wasn’t changing its mind.
Another concern for Brenan was the timing of the news, which came as online schooling returned and thus fewer students were in Halifax.
“I thought it was super strategic of them,” she said. “Obviously, no one plays tennis [outside] in the winter and everyone’s online, so not as many people will see [the court’s removal] walking by.”
The courts are still in place as of Jan. 25, but two fences surrounding them have been removed.
Dal athletic director Tim Maloney provided an email statement to the Dalhousie Gazette in response to questions about the removal of the courts. He said replacing the existing parking by way of removing the courts is “required” for the new arena’s construction.
Maloney noted the concern from the tennis club and students about the court’s replacement and said the department is “committed to ensuring their needs moving forward.”
“The replacement of the tennis courts has been identified in our long-term plan for athletics and recreational facilities,” he said.
From what Brenan and the tennis club could gather and based on the fact fences are down at the tennis courts, the chances of stopping their removal are slim. In the summer, users would now have to resort to nearby courts such as at the Waegwoltic Club and Gorsebrook Park, each five or ten-minute walks from Dal’s courts.
The message now, Brenan said, is ensuring student voices are considered by Dal when weighing options for future campus projects such as this one.
“The main goal was to get a bigger crowd [of support], at least this can help bug them more about getting more consultation on their long-term tennis court plans,” Brenan said. “[This will] hopefully make sure this doesn’t happen again.”