ALBANY — After more than 20 years, the wait for area residents wanting to get out and swing their rackets on tennis and pickleball courts may be measurable now in months.
Plans for a new tennis center have coalesced around Tift Park for a development of tennis courts and a pro shop.
The Dougherty County Commission is looking to purchase land from the city of Albany and Boys & Girls Club of Albany at the site on North Jefferson Street.
The county has $1.3 million to invest in the project. It plans to build 12 tennis courts that will be available for residents and that also are available for tournaments.
The county’s proposal is for the city to use the area where its tennis courts already are located for pickleball, a sport that has taken off among younger players and combines elements of badminton, table tennis and tennis.
“We felt that putting that together would really be a dynamite way of bringing everything together in one area,” Dougherty County Commissioner Clinton Johnson, who heads that board’s Recreation Committee, said. “It’s a central location, for one. Number two, it’s close to downtown, still close to your restaurants and hotels. It gives people something to do.”
The proposal is contingent upon the city’s involvement in the pickleball portion of the plan, he said. The county has enlisted the United States Tennis Association and a consultant in planning the tennis center.
County funding is available through a prior special-purpose local-option sales tax initiative approved by voters.
Over the years, a number of other sites have been considered, and the issue of managing the complex also has been a sticking point. Under the county’s latest proposal, it would be responsible for managing the center’s pro shop and maintaining facilities.
“There are a lot of things going on downtown,” Johnson said. “Our hope is to keep building on that.”
The Recreation Committee plans to present its proposal to the full commission later this month. Once plans are approved, it is estimated, the construction could be completed within 18 months.
The Albany City Commission discussed the county’s proposal on Tuesday and also could make a decision soon. City Commissioner Chad Warbington said he agreed the location is a good one for the facility.
“We’re really excited about the tennis center,” he said. “Tift Park is a great park for that.”
The pickleball court area also could serve as a location to host junior tournaments, which use a smaller playing surface.
While the city has not budgeted for the construction of pickleball courts, Warbington said it would be a good investment.
“Pickleball is today’s world,” he said. “It’s growing exponentially in popularity. We really have to focus on the pickleball so we can keep up with the times.”
And with the county willing to partner on the project the timing is right, he said.
“We’ve got to take the opportunity to do that,” Warbington said. “When they agreed on Tift Park, we were listening. I think it’s going to enhance Tift Park and increase the number of people going to the park. It’s really going to be a great asset there.”