Anyone for (i)Tennis? Some West Hollywood Players Say No

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For some 30 years, Stephen Sacks has been playing tennis in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park.

A good number of people did, Sacks said—at least 200 or so would spend evenings playing tennis and often teaching kids to play. During peak hours, they switched to doubles games so that more people could play, and they limited how long they occupied a court if others were waiting.

“We all knew each other, and we understood what was fair and what wasn’t,” Sacks said.

Sacks and other WeHo tennis players had a lot of love for the informal old system—but they’re fuming at what city contractor iTennis is serving up now.

Formerly, court access was free during the week; only on weekends did one need to make a reservation and pay court fees. That’s all changed with iTennis managing tennis concessions for the city, Sacks says, and local tennis players feel displaced.

That’s because courts can now be reserved for up to two hours on weekdays at a cost of $5/hour for WeHo residents and $7/hour for non-residents (the same rate that is in place on weekends, when all play is by reservation only).

Players can still drop in and take an open, unreserved court at no cost if one is available. However, players say that is harder to do with iTennis using so many courts during peak hours for its group and private lessons. iTennis is advertising one-hour and two-hour classes for $20 and $30 respectively, or $200/300 for 10-class sessions. The iTennis contract requires the company to pay either $5,000 or 10 percent of its gross proceeds (whichever is greater) to the city each quarter.

Oscar Ringel, 92, who has been playing tennis in Plummer Park since 1960, said he has coached many young people at the park over the years, and many have gone on to excel in the sport and win scholarships. The tennis community has been like a family, he said, and “I’m still the sheriff.”

But for this sheriff, it’s feeling a little bit old West.

“Now the kids don’t show,” Ringel said. “I call it a desert now.”

Many WeHo tennis players signed a petition urging the city to re-instate free weekday access to tennis courts.

“I met with some folks that are not happy with iTennis,” Mayor John D’Amico said. “I understand their point of view and think the city needs to do more to increase open court play times.”

The city provided the iTennis petition to WEHOville.com and confirmed that more than 100 people had signed, though it noted that “it is not known if the signatures are from tennis players or park patrons — nor can it be determined who the breakdown of signers are: residents versus non-residents. Also, the petition describes a loss of children’s tennis programs — however, as the data shows, there has been a substantial increase in all tennis programs.”

According to the city’s Recreation Services Division, headed by Olivia Walker, the contract with iTennis came about after the addition of new tennis courts at West Hollywood Park. The city issued an request for bids for tennis concessions, gathered information from tennis court users and completed a public bidding process, according to the information that Public Information Officer Joshua Schare provided to WEHOville.com.

Tennis programs have brought in $17,895 for the first three quarters of 2014 since the contract with iTennis started in January, the city said. Prior to iTennis management, the City received approximately $1,600 per month in court reservation fees. The city said that 97 percent of those who reserved courts from April through September were West Hollywood residents.

The city acknowledged, though, that there are tennis players with concerns about the iTennis system and said that “City staff has met with concerned tennis players and we will continue to listen. The city is concerned about the needs of everyone using tennis courts in the city’s parks. With iTennis, there has been a substantial increase in all tennis programs and we have worked to keep open court times balanced so that community members can make reservations and count on having a court available to play.”

City staffers will provide an “asset management perspective” on the matter to the City Council at its meeting on Monday. The report will include “the percentage of use of courts by lessons, court rental, and free time for the Plummer Park courts during the 2014 summer months,” according to the city.

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Ray
Ray
6 years ago

I went to at least two free clinics, one of which was the day before the Mats Wilander event. I am a relatively new WeHo resident so cannot comment on how things were before iTennis. But my opinion is that they do a fantastic job managing the courts. It seems that the only true, negative change is that you can no longer reserve a court for free during the week…it now costs you $5. You can still play for free, but simply not during peak hours (when enough people are willing to pay to reserve a court). This seems fairly… Read more »

Fido
Fido
7 years ago

Actually I would like to respond to Mike. Mike I live across from the park as well and I might be one of the the regulars whom you speak of so eloquently in your rant. I am sure there were a few jerk who didn’t follow the rules but I know for sure that most people did follow the rules regarding wait times. I also know that the city resurfaces the courts every 4 to 5 years regardless if Itennis was involved or not. Lastly, there has never been a free clinic at the park, ever! I am not sure… Read more »

Jack
Jack
7 years ago

I used to Drive over 40 miles from Valencia just to come pick up tennis matches here is Plummer park. Life was great regardless of the crazy commute because it was more than just playing tennis but socializing with friends .i fall in love with the uniqueness of this park ….when it came to picking up games. I even ended up relocating from Valencia to west Hollywood even though west Hollywood is more expensive. Since itennis took over the park I am considering moving out of the city. I am DISGUSTED ….. Shame on them .

John st John
John st John
7 years ago

When I moved here in west Hollywood in 2002 I spent months trying to make friends It was hard and I was bored out of my mine. I started asking myself whether moving here was the right idea. But guess what ? Plummer park saved my life … I met many wonderful tennis buddies there who handed up becoming VERY Good Friends on and out of the Tennis Courts. I was always excited to run to the tennis courts after work. I couldn’t wait to go play with then and release the stress …. Wow those days are Over since… Read more »

P Gahan
P Gahan
7 years ago

I write as a frequent tennis player at Plummer Park. The whole point about what you might call the tennis habitat at Plummer Park was that it was a unique eco-system within the Los Angeles area. It really was a public park where you could just show up, and generally pick up a game with other good standard players, and where young people could learn. The City of West Hollywood say they sent out a few outside researchers before the change, but they would never have picked up what was unique about tennis at Plummer. Some of us were telling… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
7 years ago

something similar caught on camera in SF: The Mission Playing Field, enjoyed for decades as a shared public space, is being privatized by San Francisco Parks & Recreation in collusion with the private City Fields Foundation. Without community approval, the private foundation decided to issue costly permits to use the small traditional pick-up soccer field. A group of Dropbox employees tried to enforce their permit but the community wouldn’t accept it. http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/10/15/rich-guys-try-kick-poor-kids-off-their-own-playing-field-get-life-lesson-video/

Scott Jete
Scott Jete
7 years ago

I think Mike works for iTennis. The changes he champions clearly were not motivated by a desire to better serve the public. The bulk of the additional funds generated by charging for weekdays go directly to iTennis, not the city. This is a blatant scheme to allow a private company to benefit financially from a facility built by city tax payers, the very tax payers who are now being edged out by the new fees. By the way Mike, these are the same tax payers who paid to resurface the courts, a tax payer funded project that was on the… Read more »

Chad
Chad
7 years ago

I love how the city of West Hollywood tried to trick you with the numbers, if you do the math and multiply the 1600 per month that they say they were getting from the previous contractor it equals almost $15,000 for three quarters OMG that is almost $300 a month more than they were getting from the previous contractor wow what is the city can do do with all that extra revenue. Is that worth taking the free courts away from the kids so that they could possibly get a scholarship to college . People have tried to explain these… Read more »

cindy
cindy
7 years ago

I am one of the kids who received a 4 year scholarship to a division 1 school, I received the scholarship only because I was able to play at Plummer Park everyday for free, my parents could not afford to pay for private lessons so the tennis pros Eric and Michael gave me private lessons for free for 3 years to get me ready for College, I am very grateful to them and The City for being able to have access to the courts for free, I am sorry to see what has happened to the Park and that the… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
7 years ago

ELECTION TIME IS COMING!!!! Everybody remember to vote out the current council members, they have lost their core values that the City was founded on, ” Resident’s first” remember when the city was first established in 1984, how compassionate they were about protecting the rights of the residents, now it is about what kind of deal the City Manager can work out with contractors outside of the City of (Bell) oops !! I meant West Hollywood. I think it is time for a changing of the guard in West Hollywood especially with John Heilman and Abbe Land, they have let… Read more »

stephensacks (@stephensacks)

iTennis is now effectively using 50% of the usable courts for clinics now during peak hours, up from one court when they initially took over the park. And they allow people to reserve the remaining courts for multiple hours at a time. Under the old system from 5pm to 9:30pm it was not uncommon for 16 to 24 people to get to play a set of doubles on each of the courts. Now each court is often monopolized for 2 or 3 hours by four, or two, people. Net result – on some evenings as few as 10 or 12… Read more »

l.g.gust
l.g.gust
7 years ago

The answer Michael is NO !!

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