Tennis courts center of South Bibb recreation center debate

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Macon-Bibb Commissioners are working to bring a $16 million recreation center to South Bibb County, but they only have about half of the funds to build it.

“There’s no tennis courts down in South Bibb right now,” said the Volunteer President for the Macon Tennis Association John O’Shaughnessey.

Residents said there’s not much to do in South Bibb at all.

“No, it’s neglected,” said South Bibb resident Shelvy Neal.

They want to give the children in their area more activities.

“They have things to do in churches, in schools, and that’s it,” explained Neal.

Everyone is on the same page when it comes to bringing recreation to the Sub South neighborhood.

“They need some fields, some facilities down there. Trails, pavilions, some kind of building,” added O’Shaughnessey.

Commissioners are trying to build a park near the intersection of Sardis Church and Houston Roads.

“Four baseball fields, softball fields. A recreation facility that could include up to three basketball courts, plus meeting space. Other types of opportunities inside, plus a pool. The master plan includes 23 tennis courts,” explained Clay Murphey, the Macon-Bibb SPLOST Coordinator.

The SPLOST fund only has $7 million of the $16 million needed to build every feature in the master plan. Commissioners have to decide which items to build. That’s where people start to disagree.

“Tennis has some revenue to it where a lot of other sports don’t. It’s a pretty big economic engine and other communities are seeing this and they’re building tennis facilities and we’re going to have to compete with that,” said O’Shaughnessey.

Residents understand tennis tournaments generate about $9 million for the county, but they’d prefer to see other projects built first.

“I’ve gone around in our community and asked our children, what do they want? The majority of them said first a pool and then ball parks. Now I had a good many of them say basketball courts,” recalled Neal.

It’s up to commissioners to decide how they’ll spend taxpayer dollars. At their meetings on Tuesday, the Economic and Community Development Committee approved the Sub South Master Plan. Murphey explained the plan is flexible and commissioners will get to choose which items they want to build. The plan is expected to go for a vote before full commission next week.

There are 30 tennis courts total in the county. The Macon Tennis Association claims there needs to be 50 for the county to be a competitive market for tournaments. They advise building them in clusters of 12 because it’s inconvenient for players to travel to multiple locations.

O’Shaughnessey said Macon is already competitive in the field, but since Rome broke ground on a 50 court facility, the county needs to invest in more courts to remain a top contender against the soon-to-be biggest tennis facility in the state.

Categories: Bibb County, Local News

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