David Hui at the Dalhousie tennis courts. Photo: Maricio Planchart

Dal tennis courts are the last standing

Line ups of late-season enthusiasts common at Dalplex

Dalhousie University does a service to the tennis community in Halifax. It is home to the only two outdoor courts in the city that still have nets this time of year.

The Halifax Regional Municipality removes the nets on all public courts throughout the city in October at the first sign of frost, though with the temperamental weather east of Montreal it is often warm enough to play well beyond that time.

Ann Wambolt, the municipality's Coordinator of Sport & Community Events, says the nets are removed in accordance with operations staff "switching over to winter operations. Work plans are set according to priority, staff availability and weather."

It is a dark day in the tennis community when the nets come down. A day that comes with no warning, just disappointment when you arrive at the court to find that your livelihood has been taken away from you.

Diana Whalen, MLA for Halifax Clayton Park, says that to effect a change it is matter of presenting a case to the representative in your area to voice your concerns. 

Those who still want to play must have a Dalplex membership or belong to a private club. The latter option is an expensive one that involves venturing to the Courtyard in Bayers Lake or the Northcliffe Tennis Club in Clayton Park.

"We don't have much choice," says David Hui, a member of the Dalhousie Tennis Club. "The public courts shut down too early and the only courts left are at Dalhousie."

Dalhousie remains the only reasonable option for students and because of this, the courts are in demand - by both those who have paid for the privilege and those who take advantage of the facility's unlocked gate when no one has it booked.

This late in the season there are often players lining up to use the courts on the select days when the weather is nice. However time is of the essence.

"People usually finish school around 5:00 p.m. and by that time it's too dark already," says Hui.

As nice as it is to have the tennis courts at Dalhousie, they pale in comparison to neighboring Wickwire Field. It's a well-maintained, sprawling and radiant sports field under the glow of flood lights that allow play until 11:00 p.m., casting a silhouette over the waning remains and last bastion of the tennis community.

To its credit, the Commons have night lights, but they are of little use when there are no nets to use. 

Kathie Wheadon-Hore, Senior Manager of Building Operations at Dalplex, says installing flood lights for the Dalhousie courts would cost somewhere between $60,000 and $100,000.

"It would involve excavation, pouring of footings, design, engineering, studies, the cost of materials, as well as the power bill," says Wheadon-Hore. "A business plan would have to be put together and vetted to see if it was feasible."

She did, however, say the university is undertaking a master campus plan.

The plan will look at the use of the land and what direction the collective body of the university would like to take in years to come.

"If people are interested in seeing night time use of the courts, now is a good time to voice their concerns," says Wheadon-Hore.

To effect a change the tennis community of Halifax must step out of the shadows and let it be known that it still wants to play.

Address your concerns to those who can do something about it and tell them that you're tired of having to play in the dark without a net.



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