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Miller Park ready for its tennis close up

WILLMAR — It looks like the city of Willmar served up an ace with the completion of a new four-court tennis complex at Miller Park, replacing the rundown courts previously located at both Miller and Rice parks. When the courts opened several days ago, there were already people waiting to play.

"I've seen people at the tennis courts," said Public Works Director Sean Christensen.

The tennis courts are completely new, from the new surface to the 10-foot fence surrounding the courts. There are also LED lights atop 60-foot poles to brighten up evening play. Grass has been seeded as well and benches for inside the tennis courts are on the way.

There have been some concerns from nearby residents about the new fence surrounding the tennis courts.

"It is really shiny and new," which causes it to stick out, Christensen said. He hopes a Minnesota winter will dull the sheen and help the fence to blend into the surroundings. "I think people will like it, they won't have to chase tennis balls all over the place."

Duininck Inc. was the contractor for the project, with a $298,219 bid to remove the old courts, construct the new four-court complex and install the lights.

The United States Tennis Association awarded $30,000 in grants toward the tennis courts project. Because of the rules for those grant funds, the city was unable to paint lines on the court surface for pickleball, which continues to grow in popularity.

"The grant was for tennis," Christensen said. "We are looking for locations for pickleball."

The courts are also not for other activities. Christensen said there have been reports of people riding bikes inside the tennis courts, which can damage the surface.

"It is not built for bikes; it is built for tennis," Christensen said.

Also part of the overall Miller Park project is a new playground. Several pieces of Miller Park's playground equipment, including its exerglide swings, spring animals and large play unit, had been removed in 2015 due to safety concerns. The rest of the equipment was removed prior to the tennis courts being constructed.

The city has purchased a new play fixture, similar to what it has been installed in parks across the city since 2016. Christensen hopes the new playground at Miller will be installed within the next few weeks.

"Allowing for some playtime on it, before the end of the season," Christensen said.

The city had a budget of $400,000 for the entire project. Last year the City Council redistributed money from a project at Swansson Field to the Miller Park project to make sure it could be done at the high level it was.

"It looks great," Christensen said.