The courts, which adjoin the privately owned Monmouth Boat Club, center, haven’t been playable since Hurricane Sandy. Below, the principals of Jetsun Enterprises – Anthony Jude Setaro, Michael Hernandez and Doug Booton – want to develop the site for new recreational uses. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s 74-year-old red-clay tennis courts, out of action since they were damaged by Hurricane Sandy 28 months ago, may be turned into a dog run, at least short-term.
Longer-term, a trio of thirty-something locals hopes to transform the courts, which overlook the Navesink River from Marine Park, into a multiuse recreational facility that would, they say, put money into the town’s coffers.
Either way, the courts may have seen their last volley of tennis.
Questions about where to put a dog facility and what to do with the tennis courts overlapped at Monday night’s monthly meeting of the borough Parks & Rec committee, which drew a larger-than-usual audience.
No one on the dais or in the audience appeared to endorse a return of tennis to the site.
Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, the governing body’s liaison to the committee, said a proposal made in 2013 by tennis players to restore and manage the courts had “stalled,” and no one from the group appeared to be present at the meeting.
The courts “largely serve non-residents,” said former Councilwoman Grace Cangemi, seated in the audience. “I would love to see something that serves residents,” particularly those who need a place to let their dogs run off the leash, she said.
Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, also seated in the audience, pushed for opening up at least one of the four courts as a dog run, which she said could be quickly accomplished at little or cost. She said she had correspondence with officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection indicating the agency would not object.
But a startup real estate development firm whose principals have deep family roots in the borough made clear they’d like a shot at leasing the site in order to create a passive recreation facility that serves residents “of all ages” while also drawing in visitors.
Anthony Jude Setaro, of Jetsun Enterprises – who appeared with partners Michael Hernandez and Doug Booton – declined to detail their plan, in light of the possibility that there may be other bidders. But they pressed for the issuance of a request for proposals, or RFP, by the town so they could tailor a plan to the town’s needs.
The Jetsun proposal “calls or something more inclusive than tennis” and would appeal to families, said Setaro, a 34-year-old Spring Street resident. He said Jetsun would be seeking a multi-year lease of the site and would foot all development and construction costs. “We see this as a kind of economic plan for the borough parks,” which are tight on funding for programs and maintenance, he said.
Setaro said Jetsun grew out of the trio’s involvement in Hurricane Sandy relief and rebuilding efforts under the umbrella of the nonprofit Rebuild/Recover. The new business has not yet developed any properties.
“Red Bank has a shot to do something spectacular,” said Hernandez, 35, owner of Sounds to Go DJ on East Front Street. “And the kicker is the town makes money.”
Schwabenbauer, who said she had heard from at least one other group eyeing the site, said a draft of the RFP was nearly ready for presentation to the town council, which would have to authorize its issuance.
“We hope to get it out in a couple of weeks,” she said.
One obstacle to any changes taking place soon could be the borough’s reconstruction of sewerage equipment adjoining the courts. The sewer facilities will be rebuilt higher up the hill in the park, on the spot of a former shuffleboard court, said Administrator Stanley Sickels. But the tennis courts may have to be ripped up to access underground sewer lines, and the land may be needed as a staging area for equipment used to rebuild the sewerage facility, he said.
The tennis courts are believed to have opened around 1941.