Atlanta tennis players await city’s decision on who will manage courts

A "KEEP UTA" sign is seen at Joseph D. McGhee Tennis Center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A "KEEP UTA" sign is seen at Joseph D. McGhee Tennis Center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

Walk around any Atlanta tennis center and you’re likely to see as many “KEEP UTA” signs as winning shots. Tennis facilities management company Universal Tennis Academy has managed the centers for the past 10 years, but many tennis players are concerned another contractor may soon take over, raise prices and make other unwelcome changes.

“Most don’t know what’s going to happen,” UTA tennis coach Jerome Coxton said. “Will rates increase? Will hours change?”

Concerns arose after the city of Atlanta’s bidding process for a company to maintain the tennis centers twice hit a snag. In May 2018, bids were requested but later canceled after errors were made by the bidders. In a rebid of the contract in September, Agape Tennis Academy was the recommended winner, but the city’s parks and recreation department later decided that they wanted to revise the scope of the work the winning bidder would do. The bid was canceled a second time.

A spokesman with the office of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said of the most recent cancellation, “the decision was made in the best interests of both residents and the city.”

UTA manages the city’s five tennis centers: Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, Joseph D. McGhee Tennis Center and those at Chastain, Piedmont and Washington parks. Altogether the centers have 63 courts and are filled the six busiest hours of the day, UTA manager Kenyon Generette said.

Following the canceled bid process, UTA’s contract was extended through August 10 and could be extended into 2020 as the city decides the next steps in the bidding process. Atlanta City Council could vote on the six-month extension as early as its Aug. 5 meeting.

Telain Bivins, 16, hits the ball while playing in a USTA sanctioned tennis match at Sharon Lester Tennis Center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Telain Bivins, 16, hits the ball while playing in a USTA sanctioned tennis match at Sharon Lester Tennis Center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes


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“(UTA has) enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the parks and recreation department for the past with 10 years,” said attorney Tom Mars, who is representing United Tennis Academy. “They believe the city is taking the appropriate steps to evaluate the future of the management of the tennis facilities.”

Agape owner, Amy Pazahanick, declined to comment on UTA’s potential contract extension. Agape has managed the DeKalb Tennis Center since 2017.

The city said it is unable to discuss details of the proposals.

Under Georgia open records law, pending, rejected or deferred bids or proposals are not made public until the contract is awarded, the project is terminated or abandoned, or the agency in possession of the records takes a public vote regarding the bid or proposal. So, it’s not clear if the city will enjoy savings by choosing one company over the other.

An audit conducted on Agape’s bid indicates it was worth at least $1 million. The city auditor routinely evaluates bids over $1 million. The exact dollar amount is not listed on the audit. However, the bid is described as “revenue positive,” meaning the city will make enough money off the centers to fund operations.

Raian Luchici, 35, Director of Tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, gives lessons to a young tennis player at the center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Raian Luchici, 35, Director of Tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, gives lessons to a young tennis player at the center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

An exact date on when the city will rebid the tennis center management contract is “to be determined,” the city spokesman said.

Still, with the delays in the bid process, residents and employees are unsure what the future holds. Some tennis players concerned with the change have organized online campaigns to keep UTA on board.

In Buckhead, residents started Friends of Bitsy Park, a nonprofit which works to enhance the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center. Former board member and longtime resident Lee King, 59, said she’s been going to the park since she was eight years old and has seen a vast improvement in the property under UTA, including the addition of clay courts.

“We have such a camaraderie with the (center’s) front desk staff and they always work with you to see what you need,” King said. She’s concerned another company will increase rates and turn the center into a tennis clinic.

“We don’t mind change,” she said,” but we do want it to feel like we have a place to play.”

For Coxton, his concern is keeping his job.

“If there is change, I don’t know if I will be here or not,” he said.


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