Costs, opposition a double-fault for tennis bubble |

Costs, opposition a double-fault for tennis bubble

Greg Mass

The tennis bubble could be in trouble. As costs related to the bubble’s erection continue to blow up, Glenwood Springs City Council members have begun backing off the bubble bandwagon.One thing’s for sure: If the bubble is built at all, it won’t be this year.”We’re not going ahead this year for the lateness of the year and budgetary constraints,” city manager Mike Copp said. At Thursday night’s council meeting, Parks and Recreation director Dan Rodgerson – who said he’s been nicknamed the “Bubble Boy” since the city purchased the cold-weather tennis shelter – uncovered the most recent and much-inflated cost estimate for the bubble: $440,000. The cost includes grading at its proposed site behind the Community Center, as well as construction of and equipment for the bubble itself. “It’s been stalled because of a budget shortfall,” Rodgerson said. Also, he said, it could be difficult to get asphalt for the courts’ surfaces. Of the needed money, council would allow that $250,000 could come from parkland dedication fees. But it is not known where the other $190,000 would come from. “When we voted unanimously to get this bubble, it was only $8,000 and I figured there would be some costs over and above that,” Mayor Don Vanderhoof said. “But it astounds me when we talk about the cost coming to $440,000.”Copp agreed. “This thing kind of grew and grew and grew and went from a project that was going to cost practically nothing to $440,000,” he said. To add to the debate, some people in the tennis community are wrangling about whether the tennis bubble would be the best way to spend such a large sum of money, or if council should look at building more courts in lieu of the bubble. “I’m all for the bubble, but we need four courts besides it,” local tennis booster Connie Eckert told council. Another argument against the bubble is that trapped heat could make the bubble unusable for much of the day during summer.But those in favor of the bubble point out that the five months of use during late fall, winter and early spring would more than make up for lost playing time in summer. “This represents a real opportunity,” Councilman Dave Merritt said. “We have an ice rink that’s not as usable in summer. … I think it would be a real draw. It would bring people here, and it would keep people here.”Larry Emery, who represents the part of Glenwood Springs that would be most directly affected by the large white bubble’s visual impacts, argued that those impacts, along with the high price tag of installing the bubble, should bring the argument to an end. “I think we should move off the bubble,” he said. “I think if more courts are built, it would be more beneficial.”Rather than trying to rush the construction of the expensive courts when it is unclear if they’re universally wanted, council decided to form a committee over the winter made up of interested people to determine which direction the tennis court decision should go. Bubble history After discovering that the bubble was being dismantled at its former home, the Snowmass Club in Snowmass Village, Rodgerson approached the Glenwood Springs City Council about the possibility of purchasing it. In April, they approved the idea, along with the $8,000 in funding.Meanwhile, local tennis enthusiasts Ron and Kayli Offerle handed workers at the Community Center an $8,000 check to reimburse the city for the bubble.In May, the Glenwood Springs City Council directed Rodgerson to look at placing the bubble behind the Community Center so it doesn’t block the attractive, and expensive, front facade of the building. It measures approximately 120 by 120 feet, stands about 40 feet tall and fits two tennis courts. In August, the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission approved a minor development permit for four tennis courts, with two of those courts built to fit within the confines of the bubble, allowing year-round tennis access. The big question facing the planning board was whether to allow a height variance for the bubble. They approved it on the condition that it be placed on the south side of the Community Center, partially concealing its mass. Rodgerson told P&Z the architectural drawings for four courts were completed and submitted to the planning board earlier in August. The parks department had been planning to seek bids for construction of the courts in September, and construction was to have begun later in the fall.Since then, the aforementioned budgetary problems have kept the bubble from being built. Part of the high cost of putting in the bubble is the purchase of new heaters and blowers. Without the blowers, and their gas-powered backup generators, the bubble would not stay up. On Thursday, Rodgerson indicated what he felt it would cost to use the tennis bubble.”If we put the bubble in, it would cost $12 to $16 per hour in order to recoup the cost of operations,” he said. Despite sinking hopes for the bubble’s eventual inflation, Rodgerson said he remains hopeful that tennis enthusiasts will net what they need. “I’m still optimistic we’ll still be building something in the spring,” he said.

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