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Center Street tennis courts do get used
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

Since I first moved here nearly 30 years ago, I always marveled at the pair of old tennis courts on Center Street. Not because they were attractive, because they’ve never been, nor because they were used by great players, because they rarely were: Tennis classes and leagues were usually held at the then-new courts on Union Road or at one of the high schools.

What amazed me is it that there were almost always people playing.  The old courts were being used.

Not by the tennis pros, or leagues. The people using the courts, sometimes couples, sometimes kids, carried old rackets, and a precious last can of balls. They hit the ball around to pass the time until they got tired. They never bothered anyone.

Again, nearly 30 years later, the neighboring Scout Hut has long since been moved and forgotten, and periodically I still drive by the courts on the way downtown. And people are still playing. Nearly all are nearby residents from the area apartments and modest old homes.

And still the players are using the courts, taking up time on a Saturday afternoon, or after school. There are no lights, and the surface is worn, but I rarely hear them complain.

During all that time, the courts have had one main drawback – their location. It’s too good. Many groups have drooled over it for everything from library expansion, or parking, or to close up Wilson Park.

In Friday’s Bulletin, I read that veteran’s groups would like the property for a veteran’s memorial. It’s a noble cause, of course. I am one of the few people, I think, who look at the one we now have in front of the library (or even know it’s there). And for 23 years I’ve taught at a school dedicated to Vietnam Veterans.

I love the idea of the memorial, and wouldn’t even say that’s not the proper place for it. But I also wonder if anyone has looked at other sites, such as a nearby park on Elm Street that’s rarely used, open spots on the bike path, many with street access, or even some of the extra space at Library Park?

Shouldn’t we pause to ask about the people that regularly use the area? The dirty secret I’ve noticed about Manteca Parks and facilities is that people don’t always notice how much they’re used. Don’t even get me started about Library Park at certain times of the day. That’s not good.

But what about all of the little parks, forgotten, but you still see a lone family practicing soccer or playing football that aren’t in leagues. I see them often. Not everyone can go to Woodward Park, and not everyone can afford to take tennis lessons at Union Road, or even walk that far.

Friday’s Bulletin also has a separate piece on the same page about a paddle sport called “Pickleball,” and presents the idea that perhaps that can replace the tennis court along with the proposed memorial. Pickleball sounds like a fine sport, (albeit with a funny name) but if Manteca’s biggest retirement community can barely come up with 30 players, I have to wonder if that’s worth kicking out the tennis players that are there now?

I hope the Veteran’s Memorial gets built. Truly.

But I hope the people who make the decision take the time to notice the effect on residents who for generations have had one small island of a place on Center Street to teach their kids the magic of a service.

Dennis Fleming
Aug. 19. 2012