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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

City planning tennis complex near Waipi'o-Gentry

 •  Map and graphic of Central O'ahu tennis complex

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

For years, talk of a world-class O'ahu tennis complex has been the sport's unplayable lie. By April, it could finally be reality.


Phase I Fiscal Year 2002

• 2 show courts with lighting
• 18 paired courts with lighting
• Covered rest areas and landscaping
• Parking
• 2 comfort stations
• Storage building
• Registration pavilion
• Maintenance facility

Phase II Fiscal Year 2003

• Center court with lighting and areas for bleachers
• 4 practice courts with lighting
• Clubhouse with lockers, meeting rooms, pro shop and offices
• Parking À Ticketing area
• Covered rest areas and landscaping

The City and County, with input from O'ahu's tennis community, is ready to roll on a Tennis Center at the 269-acre Central O'ahu Regional Park. Tennis and softball will be the second phase of the park. The first phase — baseball, little league and open fields — is scheduled to open next month.

The tennis complex will be at the end of H-2's Ka Uka Boulevard exit in Waipahu, across Kamehameha Highway from Waipi'o-Gentry, and north of Waikele.

Bids for the 20-court first phase should go out next month, with groundbreaking in late August or September, and a completion date before next May's state high school championships.

The possibility that the state tournament would introduce the complex, and return to O'ahu for the first time since 1989, diminished last weekend when athletic directors voted to keep the 2002 championships on Maui. Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya hopes to have the 2003 tournament on O'ahu — and much more.

"The complex could have a great positive impact because now there's potential for both the OIA and ILH to hold matches and postseason tournaments there," Amemiya said. "Quality tennis courts on O'ahu are at a premium. There's not only a shortage of courts, but a shortage of quality tennis courts.

"This complex is a godsend for local tennis players. In concept, the drawings look great."

After years of being shut out and shoved off O'ahu's crowded and often-neglected courts, almost anything would look great.

The first phase will include two show courts capable of coaxing international and professional events, and 18 paired courts. Phase II, scheduled for fiscal year 2003, will have a center court with space for bleachers, four practice courts and a clubhouse.

All 25 courts will have lights and be open to the public.

The complex can cope with the massive needs — 16-court minimum — of state championships, and league sectionals and nationals. With bleacher space for between 250 and 5,000 (expanded) — and vistas to Pearl Harbor — it meets professional minimums.

It also provides a convenient site for elite training camps, lessons, clinics, and college matches and practices. The University of Hawai'i has expressed interest; it played its men's matches at Pearl Harbor last season because its courts were in such poor shape. Regular-season high school dates are also possible after years of suspended matches due to the double whammy of lack of courts and lights.

And, again, it's all open to the public. Mayor Jeremy Harris used to set his alarm for 1 a.m. to get a court in college. He knows the frustration.

The complex comes after decades of speculation that led to a task force being formed nearly four years ago. That group, and the Hawai'i Pacific Tennis Foundation, became involved in the Regional Park plans. In January, Harris kick-started the tennis project. After factions compromised on the need for quantity over quality — and public over professional — in the first phase, the plan ran with the city council's financial backing. Tennis people involved in the process put the price tag for both phases at $7.5 million.

"In the last three or four weeks, the city did a formal drawing and opened the meeting for questions, and we all looked at each other and thought, 'That's really good,' " said Brent Mukai, the U.S. Tennis Association/Hawai'i Pacific Section executive director. "This can do it all. ... I think it will be huge."

Who will operate and maintain the complex is the next consideration, beyond actual construction. Sustaining the complex financially, and attracting revenue-producing events and fickle spectators are crucial.

Harris believes it can fill critical needs on an island that had more than 3,000 new players last year, and has been shut out of world-class tennis for years.

"It's going to be a spectacular facility," Harris said. "Not only for tennis players on the island but also for sports tourism.

"We need the courts overall because it's such a growth sport and they are in demand. ... Also, having a first-class facility gives us a huge opportunity to bring in tournaments and other major events. The U.S. Tennis Association thinks this is a big opportunity and we agree."