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Update 11:30 a.m. 7/22/2015: The Williamsburg-James City County School Board unanimously approved a contract to replace the tennis courts at Jamestown High School.
The School Board approved a $431,859 contract with Centennial Contracts to complete the work on the tennis courts. Funds for the project will come out of WJCC’s capital improvement budget.
The school division initially planned to resurface the deteriorating courts, which have been criticized by current players and coaches for their poor condition, but an engineering assessment determined a full replacement was necessary.
The assessment concluded poor drainage under the courts led to water collecting under the site, freezing in the winter, and causing cracks to form in the playing surface.
The initial cost estimate of resurfacing the courts was $134,000. The expanded scope of the project increased the cost.
The expanded project will install an upgraded drainage system underneath the courts, and replace the existing surface with new material.
Original post: Patches of hot, black asphalt peek through the thinning rubber surface of Jamestown High School’s track, and large cracks — some with weeds poking out — crisscross the school’s tennis courts.
The 18-year-old track and tennis courts are original to the school’s construction in 1997 — as old as some of the players on Jamestown’s varsity squads.
“Not only are the lines gone, but you’ve got cracks that run north, south, east and west — that’s the way tennis players move,” tennis coach Bob Artis said.
But help is on the horizon for the decrepit playing surfaces.
After years of requests from coaches, players and parents, the Williamsburg-James City County school division plans to upgrade both playing surfaces over the summer.
The WJCC School Board approved the repaving of the high school’s track at its June meeting. A plan to resurface the tennis courts is likely to be considered at the board’s July meeting.
“I think the board would concur that both of these projects are highly needed at Jamestown High School,” School Board Chairman Jim Kelly (Jamestown) said. “It’s probably long overdue.”
The school division earmarked $164,405 in its fiscal year 2016 capital improvement plan for the track resurfacing, and $134,000 to replace the tennis courts.
The crumbling state of the track and tennis courts had consequences for the school’s track and tennis teams.
Both tennis coach Artis and outdoor track and field head coach Dan Schlickenmeyer said the playing surfaces posed injury hazards for their players.
“You could probably say I was worried about injury,” Artis said.
The state of the tennis courts was especially important to tennis team captain Alexis Tisdale, who was injured while playing at the facility.
“Repair patches are peeling up on the courts, making it extremely dangerous to play on them,” Tisdale said. “I tore my ACL on Jamestown’s courts, and that was before they got this bad.”
Schlickenmeyer said the track posed a threat to his runners, as many runners use “minimalist” running shoes that are lighter in weight, but provide less support and cushioning than traditional running shoes.
Schlickenmeyer said the team had experienced “a rash” of injuries over the previous two years, largely due to the track.
“It’s supposed to be a rubberized surface over asphalt, but it’s basically just running on asphalt now,” he said.
Schlickenmeyer had cross-country runners practice on the soccer fields to avoid the track, but had fewer options for the track team. While cross-country could relocate to alternate practice locations, the track runners were limited to using the existing track, which had been worn down through years of use and recent harsh winters.
Beyond the effect on players’ health, both coaches and Tisdale said the poor state of the playing surfaces had an effect on the teams’ performances.
The tennis team played all of its home matches at Kiwanis Park in the City of Williamsburg, due to the poor condition of the Jamestown courts.
“We had no home court advantage,” Tisdale said. “In past years, students would often stay after school to watch the match and encourage the team, but since our home courts were now 10 minutes away, we didn’t have much support. On top of this, one of our biggest home matches had to be played at our rival courts, Lafayette.”
Artis agreed the lack of a true home court as a blow to the team.
“Athletes always enjoy traveling and going to visit away teams, but you also enjoy playing at home and being the host and showing your sportsmanship,” he said.
Schlickenmeyer said Jamestown had not hosted a track meet in the last 10 years, due to the poor state of the school’s running surface.
The school board had originally planned to approve both upgrades at its June meeting, but a recently discovered drainage issue at the tennis courts led the school division to postpone voting on the issue until next month.
WJCC Director of Public Relations and Engagement Betsy Overkamp-Smith said the school division decided to expand the scope of the tennis court upgrade to include fixing the drainage problem.
Overkamp-Smith said WJCC planned on having the courts updated and ready for play before the next tennis season.
For Schlickenmeyer, the athletic upgrades will be “a godsend.”
“I’m so excited to see it happen, I can hardly stand,” he said.