Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater tennis players want lights back

CLEARWATER — They kept playing tennis as sunset turned to dusk. Without any lights to chase the darkness away, the two tennis courts at Clearwater's Coachman Ridge Park got dimmer and dimmer, even as nearby basketball and racquetball courts remained brightly lit.

"I can't see the ball!" one player said.

"I need a miner's hat!" another chimed in.

The eight tennis players were there to make a point. They're unhappy with Clearwater's recent decision to turn off the electric lights at 42 outdoor tennis courts in order to save roughly $20,000 a year in power bills.

A group of tennis players will speak at Thursday's City Council meeting, bringing along a petition asking that the lights be restored.

"I understand the city has to make tough decisions, but this is short-sighted," said Kim Cashman, who owns Advantage Yours, a tennis and running-gear store on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. "The impact on the health and well-being of the community far outweighs the small amount of money it takes to keep the courts lit."

City Manager Bill Horne says the bottom line is that Clearwater can no longer afford to do everything it used to do, and that people will have to get used to that. The city's recreation budget has dropped from $21.5 million to $19.5 million in the last three years.

Horne also notes that the city is still giving people options if they want to play tennis after dark. There's the 15-court McMullen Tennis Complex in the Morningside area, which charges $3 an hour or a monthly membership fee. There's the free Clearwater Beach Recreation Complex, which has three courts, as well as the four-court Bayfront Tennis Complex near City Hall.

But the tennis players, especially on the heavily populated east side of the city, aren't satisfied with those options.

"You can't get a court at McMullen Tennis Complex. It's packed," said Judy Foster, director of the Suncoast Tennis Foundation, a group that works on behalf of amateur community tennis.

She says it's ironic that Clearwater is taking this route because it was named one of the top 10 "best tennis towns" in America by the U.S. Tennis Association this year, and Sports Illustrated named the city a "Sportstown" in 2004.

However, officials say the budget cuts reflect a new reality. City Council members have asked questions about the tennis court lights but haven't shown any inclination to reverse the decision. They've repeatedly said that tough times require tough choices.

City officials have also noted that several of the people who have complained don't even live in Clearwater; they just use the city's facilities.

The tennis players counter that they have a petition signed by 600 Clearwater residents.

"Historically, tennis players are not very vocal. But I know the city has gotten a bunch of e-mails and a lot of information from people wanting them to reconsider this," said Nancy Morgan, a former St. Petersburg Times tennis writer who publishes an online newsletter,

The city hasn't removed the tennis court lights but has cut off power to them at 42 courts scattered all over Clearwater. Players used to be able to push a button to turn on the lights for an hour at a time.

The lights are still on at Clearwater's soccer, football and softball fields, but officials say that leagues and teams that play on those fields pay for those lights.

City Council members have asked why the city can't put coin-operated meters on the lights so tennis players can pay to keep them on. They were told that the meters typically got vandalized.

Some players wish the city would install meters that accept credit cards or swipe cards that can be bought at city recreation centers.

City Council member George Cretekos plans to raise that issue at a council work session Monday before next Thursday's public meeting.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4160.

. Fast facts

If you go

What: Clearwater City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

Clearwater tennis players want lights back 12/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 3:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Trump owes apology to fallen soldier's Miami family


    There is no more sacred, solemn role for a president than to comfort grieving family members of soldiers who have given their lives in service of their country. Those calls cannot be easy, and some presidents are better at it than others. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration continue to engage in a …

  2. Lightning: Jon Cooper takes unusual tact to create mistmatches

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Tyler Johnson is about to swing his left leg over the boards for his next shift alongside linemate Alex Killorn and ... whom else?

    Stamkos? Kucherov? Point?

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper argues the called as his team gets a faceoff violation, leading to penalty and #Caps PP goal, during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (10/09/17).DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  3. Hillsborough teachers get a hard no on scheduled pay raises


    The Hillsborough County School District cannot afford to advance teachers to their next year's pay levels, employee relations manager Mark West told the union at Monday afternoon's bargaining session.

    This might be the last teacher bargaining session in Hillsborough for awhile. Although the two sides are not officially at an impasse, the district says it cannot pay teachers their scheduled raises.
  4. Editorial: A neighborhood under attack unites


    Three murders in two weeks understandably have Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood on edge. But Tampa police and residents are working together to find the killer and are connecting in ways that will strengthen the community in the long run. This is the best reaction to the tragedy of the three deaths, and it should …

    Seminole Heights residents came together in a candlelight vigil Sunday night to pay respect to the families and to demonstrate that they will not be cowed into staying indoors.
  5. Students at middle school pretend to rape black classmates on Snapchat


    The Snapchat had just about every offensive topic the middle school students could cram into a video clip: race-based simulated sexual assaults, profanity-laced slurs and repulsive language that shocked whoever the intended audience was - and, eventually, many more people.

    Students at a Virginia middle school pretended to rape other students on video, which was shared on Snapchat. Reports say white members of a football team enacted the rape scenes while in the locker room. This photo of a standard locker room is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.