Towe tennis courts to be lighted

In what has recently been a hot issue, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agreed in its public meeting Wednesday, August 13, that, contingent upon some additions to the original resolution, they will support lighting the tennis courts at Darden Towe Park.

The public meeting heard support from several tennis groups, including the Charlottesville Tennis Patrons Association, while various neighborhoods from Forest Lakes to vocal Towe neighbor Clara Belle Wheeler expressed opposition.

"Once lights are there, it's going to get bigger and bigger and bigger," Wheeler cautioned the Board. "The city and county gave an assurance to never have lights at Darden Towe Park."

Dave Emmitt, of a nearby subdivision, echoed that sentiment. "The community," he said, "put trust in the Board of Supervisors that every effort would be made not to start lighting Darden Towe."

Nevertheless, the Board warmed to the idea of lighting the courts presented by the Department of Parks and Recreation and voted provisionally to allow Towe's four courts to be illuminated. Several Supervisors expressed a need for the lights to be as energy-efficient as possible, with the lights remaining off when the courts are not in active use. The Board also insisted that the resolution make clear that the lights must be full cut-off, turning off automatically by 10pm, and that the project be privately funded. The $125,000 expenditure will not come from the County's budget, but will be raised by the Charlottesville Tennis Patrons Association.

Despite approving the tennis court lights, the elephant in the corner was the upcoming public hearing to light Towe's softball fields. The Supervisors kept clarifying the purpose of this public hearing, insisting that their approval would not set a precedent for future Towe lighting. Emphasis on the culture of tennis–- it being a quiet, well-behaved sport–- was constant, as were comments such as, "We're clearly talking about just the tennis courts," and, "This is different from other things that might be talked about."

"Lighting the courts and lighting the fields are two completely separate issues," County Director of Parks and Recreation Pat Mullaney says. "I have no idea what the Board will do in October."

Nevertheless, a small victory has been won for Charlottesville tennis enthusiasts. The Board deferred approving the resolution until its September 3 meeting, requiring more specific amendments. While the look and feel of Towe may be changing in the coming months (although no actual construction will occur until both the city and county approve the resolution), local softballers–- facing exile from their longtime home at the City's McIntire Park–- must wait until October, when both the city and county will be holding public meetings to decide the fate of Towe's three softball fields.

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12 comments

Emphasis on the culture of tennis¢Ã¢â??¬” it being a quiet, well-behaved sport¢Ã¢â??¬” were constant, as were comments such as, ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??We're clearly talking about just the tennis courts,¢Ã¢â??¬ and, ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??This is different from other things that might be talked about.¢Ã¢â??¬

Yes, we certainly can't have those softball savages playing games with those loud aluminum bats. It's so uncultured!

Give me a f'ing break.

First, I thought Darden Towe closed at dusk, no?
Can someone please clarify if the park will have new hours and if the park still closes at dusk, why will the lights stay on until 10pm??
Second, both the tennis courts and ball fields are in the "great outdoors",...NO?? then why is the lighting not just a seasonal issue???
Third, since I pass Darden Towe two or more times a day....WHERE ARE ALL OF THESE SPORTS FANATICS?????? Aside from SCHOOL SEASON SATURDAY MORNING SOCCER MANIA. that park is hardly used, the tennis use is a joke!

oh yeah, one more; what used to be where the Mcintire Skate Park is????HMMMMMMMMM.........
tennis courts with LIGHTS! that's right kids!

"oh yeah, one more; what used to be where the Mcintire Skate Park is????HMMMMMMMMM¢Ã¢â??¬Š¢Ã¢â??¬Š¢Ã¢â??¬Štennis courts with LIGHTS! that's right kids!"

That's an EXCELLENT point. Lighted tennis courts that were rarely used - which is why they were converted into a skate park.

But it's sheer folly to expect common sense or pesky "facts" to affect what the City and County want to do. They tend to follow the beat of their own drummer.

I say let us elect Clara B. Wheeler to to board! Here is a woman who demonstrates common sense where it is needed. Most who play tennis regularly go to THE CLUB. There is a better usage for this site, and the land should not be lit against the river bank or adjacent to her historic farm. Send the public tennis courts to IVY! Some on this board need to be voted OUT and ASAP!

"Dave Emmitt, of a nearby subdivision, echoed that sentiment. ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??The community,¢Ã¢â??¬ he said, ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??put trust in the Board of Supervisors..." Music Lover, "When will they ever learn?"
These are the same people who voted to run the Ragged Mtn Reservoir underneath I-64 as ordered by the billion-dollar Nature Conservancy.

The Darden Towe courts have been underutilized in the past primarily because most tennis (80% or better) in our community is played at private clubs. In other communities it's 80/20 the other way.

Lately there has not been a concerted effort to develop very young tennis players on the public side. Tennis has not recruited like soccer, swimming and lacrosse have. That is changing. Unlike soccer and lacrosse, tennis can be played for a lifetime, but players have to be recruited when they're young. Using Darden Towe as the focus for beginner tennis and increasing court availability will expand the number of participants and increase the usage by all ages. BTW, soccer and lacrosse are actually nice complements to tennis because of the footwork, agility and endurance.

There is a huge potential to growth public tennis in our community. And yes, tennis is a nice quiet sport that teaches good manners and sportsmanship, in addition to developing physical skills. It's an inexpensive sport too, so a wide variety of people can participate.

Darden Towe is a regional park located in a Growth Area near the bright lights of US 250. A reasonable person would expect it to be lighted and open until 9 or 10 PM as an amenity for residents most of whom work during the day. Wheeler's property is at the opposite end of the park from the tennis courts. Lighting them will have no impact on her property. And they won't light up the river either.

The latest lighting technology prevents light drift. 25 feet from the court there's only one candlepower of light. It's very dark. The lights will have a light sensor to prevent daylight operation, a timer to control usage and shutoff automatically at closing time.

As for the conversion of the McIntire Park courts for skateboarding, that precipitated the decline of public tennis here. There were no lighted courts after that was done. Besides playing on courts next to a really busy urban street and the Rescue Squad isn't exactly conducive. Darden Towe is a much better location. No distractions, plenty of parking, close to downtown and nearby bus service via Route 10.

Tennis participation which had been trending downward nationally since the mid 70s has turned around in the past several years. Participation is really growing. Hopefully that will happen here as well.

If you know of any kids who might be interested in playing tennis, please refer them to: www.charlottesvilletennis.org

Check out the News Page to see what's been going on since the first of the year.

Hope to see you on the courts!

"As for the conversion of the McIntire Park courts for skateboarding, that precipitated the decline of public tennis here. There were no lighted courts after that was done." There has been a lighted set of courts on Ridge-5th Street SW for years that is often vacant during daylight as well as at night. I played at both an the busy streets adjoining them did not lessen my enjoyment one iota. I'm not saying additional tennis courts are not needed but just setting the record straight. I also think that the idea that people will take the bus to play tennis is stretching it.

Cville Eye -- do you still play? Are you interested in helping to promote and grow public tennis in our community?

Sorry, I'm decrepit.

As someone who plays on the Darden Towe courts regularly, I can report that only 2 of the 4 courts are playable now. The court resurfacing that was done several years ago was poorly done. There have always been dead spots, but now there are cracks and areas were the surface has buckled. The center strap anchor of one of the nets has pulled out. The other nets are in bad shape.
There are gates that can't be latched.

I have complained to Parks & Rec but received no reply.

Try taking pictures and email them to the clerks of the BoS and CC. They are probably unaware.