Riddle leading campaign for new tennis courts

Jan. 02, 2013 @ 12:08 AM

Rachel Riddle has been a member of the Northern Vance tennis team since her freshman season in 2010. Her father, Tommy Riddle, would like to see the junior Viking play a home match on Northern’s campus before she graduates next year.

Tommy Riddle, a former Vance County school board member, has spearheaded fundraising efforts for on-campus courts at both public high schools in the county. Northern and Southern Vance each practice and play their home matches at Fox Pond Park.

Riddle is hopeful that plans for the “no frills” courts will be finalized by this spring with construction to commence in the summer. He expects to begin raising money this month.

The most recent estimate given to Riddle puts the cost of six fenced-in, unlit asphalt courts at $160,000 to $175,000 per school.

Riddle does not believe the Fox Pond courts are safe or convenient for high school students, especially females. The girls play in the fall while the boys play in the spring.

Sharing Fox Pond means one school is often left practicing close to dark, taking the courts when the other school is finished hosting a match. Riddle said usually only one coach is present to supervise practice.

Riddle added that students without a license are at a disadvantage when it comes to transportation to the Vicksboro Road park.

“That knocks a whole lot of kids out that could be playing tennis just because it’s not located on the school campus,” he said.

Riddle has received support from city council as well as the county board of education and board of commissioners. He said his primary goal is raise at least half of the estimated cost.

The board of commissioners previously indicated a possibility of generating the other half, according to Riddle.

“I can raise $165,000. But now $350,000, I think that’s going to be pretty hard to do,” said Riddle. “That will be our goal, to raise all we can.”

Riddle said the construction funds will be placed in a separate county school system account.

“If we don’t have the money and the final support, we’re sending the money back,” he said. “We’re not going to hold it indefinitely waiting for this project to materialize.

“The money is not going toward another function. The money is given strictly for tennis court construction and that’s it.”

One construction company had estimated the cost of the courts to be $500,000 per school. Riddle says those plans were “overdrawn,” in part, because of a breakdown in communication between himself and the company.

“(It was) way more than you would need for a public school system to have unless you just have lots and lots of money,” said Riddle. “I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if I had the money.”

Riddle describes the facility designed in the current plans as “functional and sufficient.”

“It’s not building it cheap, but it’s building it without all the extra pretty stuff you might say,” he said.

Riddle said even in a tight economy, he feels “strong” that enough money will be raised.

“I really think it’s a possibility,” he said. “I think there’s enough people out there who see it’s a good cause.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.