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No inside tennis for two Edmond tennis players.

EDMOND — Parents of two tennis players continue their fight with the city of Edmond to allow their children to play at the Kickingbird Tennis Center with private coaches.

B&B Tennis Inc., the management company that runs the city-owned tennis center, does not allow private coaches on the three indoor heated courts or the 11 outdoor courts.

Marino Acuna and Srividhya Ragavan said their children, who compete with the U.S. Tennis Association, must practice on school or private outdoor courts elsewhere in Edmond, even during cold weather.

“This exposes our children, who are dedicated and passionate about tennis, to extreme weather and the illnesses associated therewith,” Ragavan said.

Ragavan's 12-year-old daughter recently had pneumonia after practicing tennis outside in the cold, her mother said.

Ragavan and Acuna, whose daughter is 11, filed a formal complaint in November, seeking access to the city's tennis center and questioning its operation under a contract that was first signed in 1997.

The parents also complained that the city's tennis center advisory board was disbanded on Jan. 14, 2013.

“B&B is not interested in having all of the financial responsibility and risk under its contract with the city and letting other for-profits cherry-pick the use and patrons,” said Randel Shadid, attorney for Winnie Bushey, director of B&B Tennis Inc.

B&B provides a coaching staff.

City council members are reactivating the tennis advisory board and appointing members to the group. The last two members were appointed to the board on Monday.

Srividhya was named to the board. Acuna was recommended as a member, but it was determined he lives just outside the city limits and is not eligible to serve.

The advisory board was done away with because of a lack of interest and people not showing up at the meetings, said Assistant City Manager Steve Commons.

There have been few complaints about the tennis center throughout the years, he said.

“Until now we haven't had complaints to this magnitude,” Commons said. “If we had complaints, it was about improvements. Not a lot of feedback about the operation.”

Council members and the park board continued to oversee the tennis center when there was not an advisory board.

City officials, in an effort to help the parents, requested that under a special events provision in the contract, the players with their private coaches be allowed to practice in the center during off hours.

City Attorney Steve Murdock, who made the request in a Jan. 19 letter, also offered that a city employee open and close the center and that B&B be reimbursed for electric utility costs during those hours.

Shadid, in a letter dated Jan. 27, denied the request.

“If the special events are to treat Acuna and Ragavan and their children special, then we are not interested,” Shadid wrote.

Murdock, in an Oct. 31 letter to Acuna and Ragavan, called the denial disappointing.

“You and your children continue to have access to the Kickingbird Tennis Center in the same manner as other citizens in our community,” Murdock said. “The issue is the bringing in of your private coach to the facility to provide teaching to your children.”

Acuna and Ragavan, in emails to the city, accused officials of failing to be transparent and accountable.

“It is just run like a private facility,” Acuna said. “It is a one-sided contact, a contract to make money. There needs to be accountability, especially when they build the new tennis center. The budget leaves more questions than answers."

“All aspects of local government, including the Kickingbird Tennis Center, is transparent and all resources accounted for annually in the city audit," Shadid said. “The two complainants are erroneous and may be bordering on liable when accusing B&B of breach of contract.”

City officials are considering what additional steps they could take to answer the complaint.

City staff members have found that it is common to prohibit private coaches from coming into a tennis center, the assistant city manager said.

“They say it is common,” Commons said. “Though, we are a public facility.”

At KickingBird Golf Course, people are allowed to bring in private coaches, Commons said.

City officials and Edmond Public Schools are working on plans to build a $14 million tennis center with up to 10 indoor and as many as 24 outdoor courts. City council members have already purchased 23 acres on the northeast corner of Kelly Avenue and 15th Street for $2.5 million for a site to build a joint tennis center.

Re-establishing a tennis advisory board at this time is a good idea so the members can oversee the process and discussion about hiring of a third-party operator for the new center.

One of the parents' complaints was that the contract was first approved in 1997 and is renewed annually without the city rebidding for a management company.

The contract says the agreement can be automatically renewed for successive one-year terms, unless revoked in writing by the city or B&B Tennis by Oct. 1 of the current lease term.

B&B Tennis pays the city $10 a year, money that goes into the general fund, Commons said.

B&B Tennis is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the center. The city owns the building and tennis courts. City crews maintain the center, just like a landlord, Commons said.

“I think it is a great time to look at the contract in light of the new facility,” Commons said. “It is the healthy thing to do.”

Diana Baldwin

Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote the original stories about the... Read more ›

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