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Dayton PE Teacher Pushes Plan for New Tennis Courts in City

Dayton resident Jason Schwartz has a vision for the city’s approach to recreation.
Schwartz, elementary physical and health education teacher for Dayton Schools and member of Dayton’s Park Board, spent nearly an hour in front of Dayton City Council last week presenting his plan for a new tennis court complex for the city. 
Behind his push for new tennis courts, though, is a plan to re-introduce the entire Dayton community to organized recreational activity, in a city where the amount of available facilities might seem to some disproportionate to the number of physically active residents.
His proposal to council, made on behalf of the Park Board, involves the construction of four to five tennis courts in Gil Lynn Park, overlapping the location of the current softball field. In years past, Dayton was home to two tennis courts that have since fallen into disrepair and were demolished.
During his presentation, council members probed into the feasibility of this location, fearing its impact on Dayton High School’s softball team, as well as the high school soccer teams and Dayton’s youth league football team, all of whom use the field for practice.
After outlining other locations considered, which include the open field adjacent to the YMCA, the proposed new park location on Dayton Pike, and the half soccer field located on Route 8 among others, Schwartz explained in a post-meeting interview, “[The softball field] is a spot that we were lead to as the only cost-effective option for a multiple court layout.”
According to Schwartz, the multiple court layout is crucial in order to foster team play (it would provide the space needed for a full team to practice) as well as potential tournament or community league hosting in the future. The configuration of the courts could also make or break the project’s eligibility for certain sources of funding.
The potential for a new, community-oriented recreational resource for the city of Dayton sits at the center of Schwartz’s plan, and tennis specifically, being a sport enjoyed by people of all ages, is especially appropriate for the Park Board’s goals. “We want to create more opportunities for the entire community to play a life-long sport,” Schwartz said. “We’re trying to get the whole community, across all ages, to connect and get physically active."
But Council’s questions about Schwartz’s proposal reveal a larger issue facing the Dayton Park Board: how to balance the potentially competing interests of the city’s various sports organizations.
Responding specifically to concerns raised about the high school softball team, Schwartz assures, “This project is not in place to take softball out of Dayton.” 
The Park Board, in this vein, has already begun exploring the feasibility of converting Dayton’s baseball field into a combination baseball/softball field. This process would involve, among other modifications, a portable pitching mound and alterations to the field’s fencing and base infrastructure.
Schwartz added, “If we have one (baseball/softball) field for the time being, instead of two, that would allow us to put double the money into improving a single field.” He imagines taking such an opportunity to add batting cages and dugouts to the baseball field, enhancements that he says wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
In terms of funding, Dayton’s Park Board has committed up to $40,000 toward the project, dollars raised through various fundraisers hosted by the Park Board over the last year, says Schwartz. DCI Properties, the developer involved in Dayton’s long anticipated Manhattan Harbour project, has also committed to providing materials and labor for laying the asphalt and constructing the fences for the project. Schwartz is currently in negotiations with DCI, and as a result could not yet provide specific cost estimates for the project.
He intends to present council with more concrete numbers by next month’s meeting.
Despite the unanswered questions, though, Schwartz is optimistic. “I believe it’s very possible that this plan could work,” he said, referring to negotiating the various teams sharing recreational facilities.
The bottom line for Schwartz is providing as many options for recreation as possible for the residents of Dayton. Citing his experience working with Dayton’s youth, he said, “These kids want more things to do, and more chances to have fun with each other outside the house.” 
As a result, Schwartz has volunteered to spearhead and run a new Recreational Department for the city of Dayton, which, among other things, would organize Recreational Department leagues for sports of all kinds — including, of course, tennis.
Have an opinion on this issue? The Park Board’s next meeting convenes Monday, January 20 at 7 p.m., in the city building.
Written by Pat LaFleur, RCN contributor