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Funding likely for SE tennis center

(Published October 4, 1999)

By REBECCA CHARRY

Staff Writer

D.C. City Council members appear likely to support plans to spend $3.7 million in city money for construction of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, a pet project of former mayor Marion Barryís wife.

"This would be a nice thing for the community, everybody pretty much agrees with that," said Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-At large. "The only problem now is figuring out whether this does harm to any other projects in the pipeline."

The money would come from the Department of Housing and Community Development, which has about $12.5 million left over from projects that lapsed or were completed at a lesser cost than budgeted, according to testimony received at a Sept. 23 council hearing.

The funding initiative, known as reprogramming, does not require council approval, although council members could block the measure with legislation if they chose to do so before Oct. 15.

The center, to be built at Sixth Street and Mississippi Avenue SE, is slated to include four indoor tennis courts, four outdoor tennis courts, a multipurpose community room, four classrooms, one multimedia classroom, a computer center, menís and womenís locker rooms, a pantry, waiting room, lobby, administrative offices, a walking and fitness course, and a playground.

Tutoring and mentoring, computer training, tennis lessons, and speech and debate classes would be available to youngsters. The tennis courts also would be available for adult use for a fee.

The projectís founders hope the D.C. Department of Recreation and Parks will run the center, said Jennifer Coken, spokeswoman for the Recreation Wish List Committee, the nonprofit foundation created by Cora Masters Barry while her husband was mayor.

"We always intended to turn the center over to the city to own it and run it," said Barry. "If it remained private, it would eventually become exclusive and that is not what we wanted."

The tennis center was originally supposed to be built with private funds, but Barry recently appealed to the city for financial aid.

"We could have gotten the money (privately), but it would have taken too long," she said. "The mayor stepped up to the plate for us because he wanted to make it happen."

Now it appears that the council will fall in line behind Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who has lent his support to the financing plan. The center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2000.

"I tend to think the council will support it, because (Ward 8 Councilwoman) Sandra Allen supports it," said Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward 7, chairman of the committee that oversees recreation.

"Almost everyone in the ward supports it," said Phillip Pannell, president of the Democratic Party organization in Ward 8, where the center will be located. "City money has been used to support high-priced consultants and businesses. At least spend the money in Ward 8 for something that will concretely benefit the youth."

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator