Wellington Council Confirms Plan To Move Tennis Center

Despite opposition from the Wellington tennis community, members of the Wellington Village Council voted 3-1 on Tuesday night to continue negotiations with a construction company to move the Wellington Tennis Center and rebuild the Wellington Community Center.

Vice Mayor Howard Coates was the lone dissenter, with Councilwoman Anne Gerwig recusing herself from the vote because of past business contracts with an architecture firm involved in the bid.

“The time has come, and we need to make a decision,” Councilman Matt Willhite said. “That decision should not be paralysis by analysis, where nothing happens. We have analyzed this for three years, and now costs are higher than when we started. We need to build this community center.”

Council members voted last year to tear down and rebuild the community center and move the tennis center to a 15-acre site on Lyons Road, but have not yet secured a contract for construction. The vote Tuesday was to move forward with negotiations with Pirtle Construction, which has proposed a $13 million contract for the job.

But residents came out in droves to oppose the decision and ask the council to reconsider the entire project, instead keeping the tennis center at the village municipal complex.

Director of Operations Jim Barnes said Wellington staff and representatives from Pirtle discussed ways to lower the cost of construction while still meeting the needs of the community.

“We discussed program and development options… to see how we could lower the price,” he said. “We arrived at a reduced price of around $12 million.”

Coates asked whether the reduced price would mean sacrificing amenities in the community center. Barnes said that although there would be some changes from Pirtle’s original bid, it would still meet Wellington’s original requirements for the building.

“What we bid out was less than what the [construction company] proposed,” Barnes said. “In actuality, what we’ve done is negotiated the price down based on the fact that they proposed more than our original criteria.”

The changes included removing about 2,500 square feet from the building, largely by moving planned office space from the second floor of the building to the first, Barnes said.

Coates said he wanted to make sure the community center would not suffer from the changes.

“I think this council is unified in its resolve to build a very nice community center with extensive programming to meet the needs of our seniors and some of the other users within our community,” he said. “What I’m concerned about is adversely affecting some of the anticipated programming because we’re reducing the size of this.”

Barnes said it would not affect the programming. “What we’ve changed isn’t program space,” he said. “It’s excess office space from when we were looking at housing some of the legislators at that location.”

He noted, however, that the final site plan would not be set until a contract is finalized.

During public comment, about 30 residents spoke for more than an hour against the measure, instead asking council members to consider a citizens proposal presented earlier this month by residents Judy and Roy Rosner.

“It makes me sad that the proposal put forth by Mr. Roy Rosner, with all the extras we want, could not be accepted or considered,” said Maria Castro, who is the captain of one of the women’s tennis teams.

She said moving the tennis center would mean residents in nearby Lake Worth and Lantana would have an easier time getting there.

Resident Kelly Caldwell Sachs said having the courts in a central location is better for families.

“I don’t want to be schlepping my children to the courts on Lyons Road when they could just ride their bikes up the street,” she said, noting that she might have to find an alternative tennis program if the center moves. “Not only that, but they can go swimming and use the playground. It’s centrally located so everyone can use it. This place is wonderful, and none of us want it moved.”

Sally Schwartz of the Wellington Seniors Club asked the council not to forget the reason it started the process — to build a facility that would accommodate seniors. “We have been promised a center large enough to accommodate our 600 members and the programs that we have,” she said. “I think it’s about time to accommodate the seniors who live in Wellington, not only the tennis players.”

Roy Rosner said that Mayor Bob Margolis had pledged to him not to spend more than the originally budgeted $10.5 million.

“You said, ‘Mr. Rosner, you can be sure that I will not vote to go ahead with this project if the cost is even $1 more than our $10.5 million budget,’” he said. “I call upon you to honor that pledge and commitment.”

Rosner asked council members to stop the process and bring staff in with members of Pirtle Construction to reconfigure the site without moving tennis.

Margolis said he had submitted Rosner’s proposal to staff, which determined that the best option was to move the tennis facility. “I gave it to staff to evaluate,” he said. “Staff evaluated it, and now you don’t believe them. I put my respect in my engineer.”

Village Engineer Bill Riebe said that because of setback requirements, as well as other equipment, the proposals presented by the Rosners would not work without major restructuring of the municipal complex.

“This site, even the way it’s developed today, has tennis courts that encroach on the setback requirements,” Riebe explained.

Demolishing the Lake Wellington Professional Centre could add needed space, Riebe said, but would not offer parking solutions and would require a redesign of the proposed community center.

“The site is really limited because of setbacks and access requirements,” he said. “In order to put in 21 courts, a 25,000-square-foot community center, a pro shop, a rowing center and accommodate all the parking and storm drainage… It could be done, but it would be expensive to do so.”

During the council’s discussion, which was interrupted repeatedly by the crowd, a council majority said that moving the tennis center would better serve more residents.

“There has been a lot of attention on tennis, but we have to look at the bigger picture,” Councilman John Greene said.

He noted, however, that the tennis community has been pushing for years for more courts to hold tournaments and other events. “The alternative proposals don’t seem to encourage future growth,” Greene said.

The project has already suffered many delays, and Greene said he wanted to make a decision. “I’m not going to support putting this off any longer,” he said.

Councilman Matt Willhite said there had been a lot of “fear-mongering” by those opposed to moving the tennis center. “To say that we’re going to raise your taxes to pay for this is untrue,” he said. “The money is already there.”

He also noted that residents who live on the east side of the village must drive to get to the current tennis center. “Those residents are taxpayers and are just as important as residents who live more central to the village,” Willhite said.

Further, Willhite said it is important to have the community center underway to have a place for the seniors. “Three years after we made the decision to rebuild this, seniors still have to use a ramp that doesn’t comply with ADA standards,” he said. “I will support this contract moving forward.”

Coates said he would not vote against residents’ wishes.

“The word is going to get out that this council is out of touch with its people and is not representing their will,” he said. “To suggest there is significant support for this move is blatantly false.”

Margolis noted that when Wellington decided to move the baseball fields from the old Boys & Girls Club site to Olympia Park, residents made the same arguments, but the fields have been well-used since then.

Although he said he wants the cost of the project negotiated down, Margolis supported moving tennis. “I’m going to vote to move forward with the project, which we’ve been talking about for 10 years,” he said. “It will give tennis players more courts, a better facility and more space.”

Willhite made a motion to approve the item, which carried 3-1 with Coates opposed.


ABOVE: The current Wellington Community Center.


  1. Did tennis enthusiasts actually think they held any sway with the council, like the ‘contributing’ equestrians do? You, tennis guys and gals, are the ‘ordinary citizens’ of Wellington, not the ‘bigwigs’ that dominate what happens in Wellington.

    There is no special hotline for tennis buffs (or for that matter, the rest of the residents of Wellington)-only equestrians have their own hotline. There is no Tennis Committee, like there is an Equestrian Committee (and hold on, Councilman Greene stated that he’s meeting with equestrians to form another equestrian committee!).

    A while back, a council member had mentioned a tennis court specialist to Mr. Barnes. Mr. Barnes told the council member that there was a process for hiring consultants. Has that consultant been brought in?

  2. We should not be supporting private individual to run his business on taxpayers dollar.These court are for Wellington taxpayers, mainly for kids who can’t get court time,that’s why kids are not there.This should be free to Wellington people with no appointment needed to play This league is not sponsored by Wellington parks and rec.Don’t use our money.Let them join a tennis club and pay fee’s.DON’T MOVE put only 16 court

Comments are closed.