Metro-East News

East St. Louis groups to break ground on new tennis courts

By the fall, East St. Louis residents are set to have new tennis courts at Lincoln Park.

Officials from the East St. Louis Park District, the U.S. Tennis Association and the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House are scheduled on Wednesday to break ground on a new set of tennis courts.

The current courts have been deteriorating and are unplayable, said Irma Golliday, executive director of the East St. Louis Park District.

The project, which will bring three tennis courts, is in partnership with Illinois Department of Natural Resources, East Saint Louis Park District, 40 Days of Nonviolence, and Missouri Valley Chapter of the U.S. Tennis Association, among others.

The state had approved a $239,000 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant for the project in January 2015. That grant was put on hold by Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration at the beginning of the state budget impasse. State funding for the project was ultimately allowed to move forward after the stop gap budget was approved about a year ago.

With grants from the U.S. Tennis Association, and some other sponsorships, along with little park district money, the project is expected to cost about $300,000, Golliday said.

She added the park district is working on obtaining assistance to add lights to the courts.

The courts will be built with a playing surface required by the tennis association, Golliday said.

The project is expected to be completed by late September or early October, Golliday said. The tennis courts will be open to East St. Louis Park District residents, which includes Alorton and Washington Park, among other places.

When complete, Lincoln Park is set to have the only playable tennis courts in the city, according to a news release.

Programming will include sports training as well as partnerships with other community entities such as “churches and special interest groups to provide various types of enrichment,” the news release said.

“We wanted it to be structured, ... want kids to learn to play tennis, and want to be able to say we created the next tennis pro from East St. Louis,” Golliday said.

Joe Lewis Jr., coordinator of the 40 Days of Nonviolence, said he is excited for the construction of the three tennis courts to begin.

This project is special to Lewis. When he was a youngster, he said he chose to stop playing baseball in order to concentrate on tennis.

He said it would be beneficial in the city, such as for the high school’s girl’s tennis team, which has to practice twice a week in Belleville.

“I’m excited about it,” Lewis said. “I’m as happy as I could be.”

To attend, the groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Lincoln Park at 1500 Piggott Ave.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter