Tupelo tennis in limbo amid call for court fees

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city’s tennis program will reorganize after its entire board of directors resigned amid plans to hire a permanent staffer and start charging court fees.
All 12 members of the Tupelo Tennis Association board of directors abruptly quit last week, and many declined interviews with the Daily Journal after a packed meeting to discuss the matter Tuesday at the city Parks and Recreation Department building.
Attending were several past board members, numerous tennis players, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and City Council President Fred Pitts.
Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis said he has only theories, but no official reason, for the board’s unexpected departure. The board runs the tennis association, which advises the municipal department on how to best operate the city tennis program.
That program was on the cusp of change when the resignations occurred. Lewis said his department wants to improve the city’s tennis facilities to add more courts and eventually build an indoor complex.
Currently, Tupelo has 11 free outdoor courts, some of which are in need of repair.
To pay for the improvements, Lewis proposed charging players roughly $2 a person for a 90-minute match during peak hours. The money would fund a permanent tennis director who, in turn, would drum up support for the tennis program and drive more players and tournaments to the city.
Lewis already had picked the director and hoped to hire that person by March, but some at the meeting urged patience.
“Can we just slow it down a bit?” asked tennis player Maggie Hamilton. “I feel like there is a lot pressure for everything to change. This thing is moving so quickly, and we’re all taken aback.”
Others said they wouldn’t want to pay a court fee and that it would discourage people from playing the game.
“We’re getting what we’re paying for,” said Reed, a longtime tennis player. “And if we want more – if we want an indoor facility, more courts, better lighting – we just need to be grown-ups about the choices.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.