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Grants assist Willmar's Miller Park tennis project

Tribune file photo The United States Tennis Association has awarded the city of Willmar a $20,000 grant to go toward replacing the two tennis courts at Miller Park with a new four-court complex with LED lights. Work is expected to begin in April. The overall project costs, which includes new playground equipment, is approximately $370,000.

WILLMAR — The city of Willmar has received extra assistance from the United States Tennis Association to the tune of $20,000.

In December it was announced the association had awarded the city a $20,000 facility assistance program grant to go toward the new four-court complex at Miller Park.

The city had already received a $10,000 grant from the regional tennis association, bringing the total to $30,000 in grant funds.

"It has enabled us to complete this phase of the project," Community Education and Recreation Director Steve Brisendine said.

The project at Miller Park includes the removal of the two tennis courts currently at the park and replacing them with a four-court, LED-lighted complex. Construction is expected to begin in April.

New playground equipment is also being purchased, to replace the pieces removed two years ago. So far some of the old playground equipment, a few trees and parts of the tennis courts have been removed.

"The work so far was done by Public Works staff," Brisendine said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $380,000, with a total of about $400,000 available in the budget, including a contingency fund. The grants are included in the available total.

The Willmar City Council in November approved an agreement with Duininck Inc. for $298,219 to remove the old courts and construct the new ones, along with installing the new LED lights. Brisendine said it is hoped that work will begin in late April.

Brisendine said the city has worked with the United States Tennis Association in the past, but mostly for programming assistance. However, the city knew the association had grants available for court rehabilitation and construction projects.

"We knew they were a source to go to," Brisendine said.

In addition to the money, the association grant also provides the city with technical assistance, including helping choose the best materials and decide the best base to use for the courts.

"It has set us up to have a quality project when it is all said and done," Brisendine said. "By getting that extra $30,000, we are able to do everything in our game plan."

The United States Tennis Association has awarded grants to assist in facility projects since 2005, helping construct over 39,000 courts across the country, allocating more than $12 million, according to a news release announcing the grant award.

"This program allows us to assist in the development process of providing usable tennis venues to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to play and enjoy the health benefits of our great game," said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive of community tennis for the association, in the release.

It has only been in the last decade that tennis started to re-emerge in Willmar as a popular pastime, Brisendine said, in great part because of tennis enthusiasts, including Willmar tennis coach Jim Anderson. Brisendine said he feels it is that commitment that helped the city be successful in obtaining the grants.

"We're interested in building tennis in our community and they rewarded us," he said.