Where Tommies might build controversial tennis courts

University of St. Thomas

In October, I pointed out a Pioneer Press piece about how the University of St. Thomas had angered some neighbors by proposing tennis courts in a park-like area behind Brady Educational Center.

Looks like administrators have gone back to review other possible spots — 13 in all — and have chosen two, including the spot originally selected, TommieMedia reports:

The final sites are located behind Brady Educational Center along the Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue, and by Cleveland and Selby avenues behind Ireland Hall, where the tennis courts used to be before they moved to South Campus.

That is, of course, if the university decides to build them at all, Doug Hennes, vice president of university relations, told neighbors. No decision has been made yet:

“We still don’t have a timetable. The feeling from our finance committee is it is too early to tell how much money will be left over from the student center project to do the McCarthy renovations or the tennis courts or both. So we hope to decide this spring.”

At least one neighbor seemed grateful St. Thomas was looking at other spots, but some folks still seemed concerned. The second option could cost up to half a million dollars more.

One neighbor reportedly told Hennes:

“If it costs more to do what’s right, the university should buck up and pay extra.”

Read the full story here.

UPDATE: Here’s a news release the university has sent me on the matter:

St. Thomas has identified a second potential site for six new tennis courts, at the southwest corner of Selby and Cleveland avenues.

The site is in addition to a site identified last fall at Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue on the south campus. Responding to neighborhood criticism of that site, St. Thomas agreed to reexamine other on-campus locations and determined the Selby-Cleveland site also is feasible.

A decision will not be made until this spring on whether, where and when to proceed with new courts because of funding considerations; the earliest that construction would begin would be this summer. The courts would replace those lost in May 2008 to construction of the Anderson Parking Facility at Cretin and Grand avenues on the south campus.

Detailed drawings have not been completed for potential Selby-Cleveland courts, but they would fit in a row of six south of Selby and west of Cleveland to the St. John Vianney Seminary building and would be surrounded by a 10-foot high fence.

About 43 parking spaces and 18 trees would be lost, and St. Thomas would need to reconfigure vehicular and fire lane access to Ireland Hall and the loading dock to John Paul II Hall. St. Thomas also would need to obtain setback variances from Selby and Cleveland because the St. Paul zoning code requires setbacks of 25 feet from property lines.

St. Thomas maintained tennis courts in that vicinity until the early 1980s, when St. John Vianney Seminary was constructed. At the time, the courts ran along the south side of Selby between Cleveland and Finn Street.

University officials discussed the Selby-Cleveland site Tuesday night at a West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee meeting attended by 30 neighbors who oppose courts on the northeast corner of Goodrich and Mississippi River Boulevard.

Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations, said St. Thomas examined the possibility of off-campus courts with St. Paul Parks and Recreation, but the city doesn’t have enough property near campus to develop six courts. Another off-campus possibility, with Town and Country Club, has been ruled out because it has only four courts and they are clay.

Hennes reviewed for the committee 13 possible on-campus sites that had been studied previously or suggested last fall, including locations on existing parking lots, the tops of buildings or various green parcels. The only feasible sites, he concluded, are Mississippi River Boulevard-Goodrich and Selby-Cleveland.