Residents push for more clay courts

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AIKEN - Aiken residents who enjoy a rousing game of tennis might soon have four additional courts to play on.

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Sandy Carpenter, of Aiken, plays tennis with a group of ladies at the city's H. Odell Weeks Activity Center. The city currently has 12 tennis courts, which fill up quickly when leagues are in play.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Sandy Carpenter, of Aiken, plays tennis with a group of ladies at the city's H. Odell Weeks Activity Center. The city currently has 12 tennis courts, which fill up quickly when leagues are in play.

But the question they're asking the city council is, what will the courts be made of?

"I would like for them to be all clay," said Mark Calvert, the director of tennis at the H. Odell Weeks Activity Center. "That's my biggest complaint right now - everybody wants the clay courts and they fight over them."

The city currently has 12 tennis courts - six clay and six hard.

The clay courts are preferred by most tennis enthusiasts in the area because running on clay courts is less jarring to the body and provides a slower paced game than asphalt courts.

"The clay courts always fill up first, and then people start going to the hard ones," Mr. Calvert said. "When they don't get a clay court, they're not happy about it."

Aiken resident Gerald Copley has played tennis all his life, and at 78, he shows no signs of stopping.

"I had two brothers who died on the tennis courts, (both) had heart attacks," Mr. Copley said with a grin after spending three hours on the court with three league players. "I can't think of a better way to die than to hit an ace."

The four are part of a league of 15 men, ranging in age from 62 to 85, who play tennis year-round, three days a week, and grabbing court time on one of the city's six clay courts isn't always easy.

Nina Maxwell captains a league for women on Thursday mornings - the same time as the men's league.

When the leagues are in play, other residents who enjoy tennis either have to play on the hard courts or not at all.

"We actually turned some people away this morning (last Thursday) who went down to the old courts to play," Mr. Calvert said. "The people we turned away were people who had paid memberships to the Weeks Center."

The old courts - four hard courts on the other side of the park that are free to use - are in bad shape, with cracked cement and holes in the nets.

"If (the city) repaired the four courts on the other end, they could put in more clay courts," said Nick Calve, who plays in the same league with Mr. Copley. "We're going to have a lot more seniors moving in this area, and there is going to be a bigger demand for more clay courts."

Clay courts cost more to install and maintain than hard courts. One clay court costs about $10,000 to install, and its yearly maintenance is about $5,000 a year.

"I know it is a lot more money to take care of a clay court," Mrs. Maxwell said.

"We have the greatest baseball fields in the world here. I think we need to have the greatest tennis courts, too."

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or

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peppernik 05/29/07 - 12:40 pm
Parks & Rec money is

Parks & Rec money is desperately needed to fix the old courts. How about fix what you have before building more new. I've been playing tennis for 35 years and I don't think paying by the hour for the new courts is fair, while watching the old free courts go unkept. This is tax money we're talking about isn't it?

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