A group of residents is urging the Wellington Village Council to consider new proposals for the rebuilding and redesign of the Wellington Community Center and the Wellington Tennis Center.
Although the council will not vote on the matter until its next meeting, several residents presented a “citizens hybrid proposal” Tuesday night, offering alternatives to the council’s current plan, which involves moving the Wellington Tennis Center to a 15-acre parcel on Lyons Road.
The council planned to vote Tuesday to award a $13.8 million contract to Pirtle Construction for tearing down and rebuilding the community center and moving the tennis courts. But approximately two hours before the meeting, Councilman John Greene became sick and had to be rushed to the hospital with an unspecified illness.
Council members decided to postpone discussion on the issue until Feb. 25, so Greene will be able to participate.
Residents Roy and Judy Rosner, who have opposed moving the tennis center at past meetings, said the council should consider different options to save taxpayers money.
“We’re here tonight to ask you to revisit an old decision in light of excessive over-budget costs,” Judy Rosner said. “The village is now in a position to achieve its objectives of a brand-new lakefront community center and a large, revitalized tennis center.”
She said the proposals could cut Wellington’s costs by as much as $8.5 million.
Roy Rosner noted that for the proposed $13.8 million contract, Wellington would add about 80 parking spots at the new community center, while the tennis facility would have five more courts — for a total of 21 — at its new location.
But now that the village owns the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, Roy Rosner said the site could be reconfigured to share space and keep all the amenities at Wellington’s Town Center.
“[The professional center] affords us a great opportunity to share space — for example, the parking space — to change traffic flows if necessary, and to reconfigure accordingly,” he said.
In the first of three proposals for a reconfiguration, Rosner pointed out that the site could share parking with Lake Wellington, rebuild the community center south of its current location and add several tennis courts to meet the council’s desires.
“We also reconfigured the parking lot of the Lake Wellington Professional Centre and added space for about 60 more parking spaces along the south edge of the swimming complex,” Rosner said. “That would be a total of about 180 additional parking spaces.”
The proposal would also create a separate tennis pro shop and office, which would be located along the courts. “We could change the traffic patterns to the tennis center and provide better access to the courts,” he said.
This would provide all the same services the council has requested without moving the tennis center, Rosner said.
“It provides for exactly the same building that has been requested and the same tennis capability with 21 courts,” he said. “The only thing that’s different is the location of the tennis center.”
If the village were to consider demolishing the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, more options for the site would be available, Rosner said.
“We could move the community center to a better location further south on the lakefront,” he said. “If you take this a step further and remove the buildings associated with the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, you’d have a blank slate where your imagination could run wild.”
He noted that the option to tear down the Lake Wellington Professional Centre completely as outlined in a third option would be the most expensive, with costs similar to Wellington’s current plans. But he said the first option, which shifts several of the site’s key areas, would be cheaper and still meet the needs of the community.
“I don’t want to just build a parking lot on this site,” Rosner said. “I want to have a completely integrated recreational and cultural commons.”
He noted that replacing the current tennis courts and adding the five additional courts would save the village about $4 million in costs associated with site planning for a new tennis center.
“And when you’re all done, you’d still have 15 acres on Lyons Road worth $8.5 million,” he said.
At about $7.7 million for the Rosners’ proposal, Wellington would save $2.5 million from its original budget of $10.5 million, and more than $5 million from the current proposed contract, he pointed out.
During public comment, several residents spoke in favor of the proposal.
Dr. Harvey Klein said the way the complex is currently configured is better for families and teens.
“If children want to take tennis lessons… they can then walk to the pool complex,” he said. “That’s the idea of a community center. Moving the tennis center is the equivalent of saying, ‘Well, we have soccer fields but if you want to play baseball, you have to drive to Greenacres.’ This exists to have things integrated. The reason Village Park works so well is because you have so many fields and so much going on that it creates a sense of community.”
Others wanted to make sure there was enough room for senior citizens, first and foremost.
“At our monthly meetings, we cannot accommodate the nearly 300 or more seniors who attend,” said Sally Schwartz, the Wellington Seniors Club membership chair. “We do not appreciate the idea of being squeezed into a small room again. We have been promised for many years that the council would find a way to accommodate us.”
Tony Fransetta said he thought Wellington’s staff had evaluated all options and noted that there are not many services available to residents living on Wellington’s east side.
“The people living on the east side have the same rights as the residents on the west side,” he said. “Let’s not spend more time and effort on this than we have to.”
Council members did not comment on the proposal but encouraged residents to return for the Feb. 25 meeting, when public comment will be heard before any vote.
ABOVE: The current Wellington Community Center.