Philomath’s long-awaited tennis courts project is about to become a reality.

After more than a decade of work by several volunteers, the Philomath City Council pledged $200,000 in February for the construction of a tennis facility. Ground was broken late last month to create a four-court setup on the high school’s old junior varsity soccer field adjacent to Philomath City Park.

Lori Haslam of the Philomath Tennis Courts Committee said the playing surface should be ready to go by Sept. 1. Fencing is expected to be completed later in the month.

“It’s just really exciting,” Haslam said. “It’s been about 12 years coming and it’s going to be great for the community and great for the kids at school.”

The Clemens Foundation provided funds for two public courts in 1972, but those were eventually removed.

High school tennis first came to Philomath in 2005 when Haslam’s oldest son, Ben Haslam, asked the school board to start a club. It became an official high school sport the following year.

Without a facility in town, the tennis team practiced and competed at Corvallis’ Ashbrook Independent School. Players only had access to the courts during specified hours.

“It’s really difficult that the facility is not on campus,” Lori Haslam said. “Because the players don’t feel a part of the high school and kids from the high school don’t get to watch unless they drive down to Ashbrook.”

The commuting and access issue was nearly solved a decade ago when grant money was secured to cover construction costs for a facility in Philomath. But the school district and city couldn’t agree on a location, and time ran out to use the grants.

Ten years later, the project is finally moving forward.

“It’s been nice to see them pull this all together,” said Philomath High School head coach Gary Quandt, who estimated the project will cost about $275,000. “As soon as the city gave us the bulk of the money, the rest of the fundraising became a little easier.”

The school district donated the land and also chipped in a few dollars, Quandt said. The rest of the money came from private financing and grants.

Dennis Gibson Construction began excavating the site ahead of schedule in late July.

“We were actually going to have a groundbreaking ceremony but they started earlier than they were supposed to,” Lori Haslam said. “So we will do a ceremony when it’s completed.”

About 9 to 12 inches of top soil was removed and replaced with gravel. As of Aug. 9, the site had been graded and was ready for paving.

Quandt said Joey DiGiovannangelo, the school’s facilities director, is handling the contracting bids for exterior fencing.

“And then the last thing is to bring in guys who do the resurfacing, set the net post and get the courts ready to play,” Quandt said. “Building tennis courts is a pretty simple project. It’s just a matter of lining up the contracts.”

The facility will hold four courts with the potential to expand down the road.

“We were looking at four- to- six but we figured we should do four and get them done right now because we had the money,” Quandt said. “Six was too much money and we can always do more later.”

With courts on campus, Quandt and Haslam are pushing for tennis to be included in middle school and high school PE curriculum. There is also the possibility of running summer tennis programs.

Despite the facility challenges, Quandt has built a competitive program at the 4A/3A/2A/1A level. The boys placed sixth at last year’s state tournament and the girls shared 12th.

The new facility will give Philomath residents of all ages easier access to the sport.

“Tennis is a lifetime sport and it’s great for a community,” Haslam said. “You can play it when you’re 5 or 90.”

Added Quandt: “The people of Philomath can now have another recreational outlet and be able to come over and play. And from a school standpoint, we were renting courts and now that’s not going to have to happen. That’s huge for us.”

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