The Maryland Stadium Authority has dumped a bucket of ice-cold water on the tennis enthusiasts who want to build a world-class tennis facility in Howard County, in the form of a rather sobering and discouraging analysis of the proposal. And while the prospect of such a facility is beguiling, the authority's analysis was a welcome dose of reality.
The suggested facility, a nearly decade-old dream of tennis-lovers here, would be built at a county-owned site at the intersection of Route 100 and Interstate 95. The Troy Park Tennis Center, as originally envisioned, would include some 30 tennis courts, an 8,000-seat stadium (one of the largest tennis-specific venues in the country) and a 2,500-seat exhibition court. With a price tag of $44 million, backers hoped it would attract national and even international-level events, including aU.S. Opentune-up or qualifying tournament.
The road from drawing board to facility has been a bumpy one, however. Perhaps because of the economy, the hoped-for support, from both private and public sources, has been painfully slow in coming.
Last year, County Executive Ken Ulman — hesitant to sink county money into the project — asked the Maryland Stadium Authority to examine the proposed center's feasibility. That report was released last week, and it left the center in a 40-love hole, with the match on the line.
While such an expansive tennis center certainly would offer some benefits and the location is fine, the report found, the cost is too high and the prospect of landing major tournaments not guaranteed. The lack of support from private sources and the level of public risk should concern the county, the report went on, and the lack of nearby hotels is another minus.
A smaller venue, the study suggested, should be considered.
Hear, hear to all that.
A world-class tennis facility is a nice idea, if it can turn a profit. But as the stadium authority report found, that's a big if — one that's too big to take the risk, especially in these economic times. Thankfully, Ulman recognized that and pulled the plug on county funding for the complex after the study was released.
No doubt a tennis facility could be a boon to tennis players and a feather in the county's cap. But this is not the time, if there ever was or will be one, for a facility on the grandiose scale envisioned.