By JOHN T. WARD
And its got something for fans of the fast-growing sport of pickleball, too.
The courts, in Fair Haven Fields on Ridge Road, replace four deteriorated courts, and are the result of a collaboration between the borough and R-FH. Under an interlocal agreement, they split the estimated $370,000 construction cost, and the school is responsible for maintenance for the first 10 years of the deal, said Mayor Ben Lucarelli.
The town was facing the possibility of a $250,000 bill to replace the old courts, he said.
The partnership came about largely because the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams at the high school needed five courts in one location in order to host regulation play, said girls’ coach Maria Nevares Manley: three courts for singles matches, and two for doubles. The school had access to five courts, but not all in one place, with three at R-FH and two at Piping Rock Park, a block away.
“It’s very difficult to coach when you have three courts in one place and two in another,” Manley said. The school’s courts were also in need of upgrades, she said.
Three or four years ago, Manley approached Lucarelli, a longtime friend who’d recently become mayor, with the idea of adding a fifth court at Fair Haven Fields, with the school and town dividing the cost.
And “nobody argues with Maria,” Lucarelli joked at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The girls’ team began playing on their new home courts in late August, while they were still being completed, and the boys’ squad will use them in the spring. Meantime, they’re available to local residents.
“I think the public’s going to use them a lot,” said Councilman Chris Rodriguez, who noted that there are plans to install wind blockers on the perimeter fences.
At the urging of Fair Haven resident Kim Smith, two of the new courts are also marked for pickleball play. A game Lucarelli describes as “giant ping pong,” it’s a fast-growing sport because, Smith said, it’s not as demanding as tennis.
An instructor, Smith said she’s taught pickleball to “at least 300” new players in the past year alone. She notes that six new pickleball courts at Red Bank’s Community YMCA, built on the site of a former roller hockey rink, are in use day and night.
Smith has scheduled a free introductory clinic on pickleball at the courts this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Balls and paddles will be supplied for those who don’t have them, she said.