Meeting/Vote On Winn Brook Tennis Court Expansion, Wednesday, Feb. 10

Photo: Design of the two proposals for courts at Winn Brook

The Belmont Recreation Commission will host a second public ZOOM meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m., via Zoom, to discuss and solicit feedback on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) request to add additional tennis court/courts at Winn Brook Playground.

The court/courts would be added in the area between Joey’s Park playground and the existing tennis courts, to add one to two additional courts. See designs below.

There is a need for additional court/courts to meet the requirements of the Belmont High School tennis program that will utilize the Winn Brook courts for practices and matches. The additional court/courts will also add to the available courts for the public when not being utilized by the High School program.

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
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Passcode: 481165

Tennis Aced Out Of High School Campus, Moving To An Expanded Winn Brook Location

Photo: Winn Brook tennis courts.

Belmont High Tennis tennis teams will be playing its matches at the courts at Winn Brook Elementary School after Superintendent John Phelan announced a decision by school officials that the sport will not be located on the campus of the new school.

Phelan told the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee on Tuesday morning, Jan. 7 that building five tennis courts west of Harris Field was unfeasible with the current needs for the land including sub-varsity playing fields for softball, baseball, field hockey and soccer and the likely construction of a new public/private skating rink.

“The reason why we chose tennis was not our lack of respect for the program … but the best universal use of all the space not only on campus but around town,” said Phelan. While a fall and spring sport could be located at the Winn Brook, building a new baseball field at the Winn Brook would impact youth club teams such as soccer, recreational sports and educational programs that currently use the ground.

“It’s a real ripple effect across the town’s spaces which we have to be respectful of,” said Phelan.

The push to keep five courts on the new campus came from student-athletes, their supporters and residents who play tennis who said all varsity sports should take place at the high school. The campaigners also said taking away the court was done in a less than open process.

A reassessment was conducted over three meetings in December by Phelan, Assistant Town Manager Jon Marshall and Belmont High Athletic Director Jim Davis. In the end, the “biggest bang for our dollars” was to keep the existing plans “that will provide the most access to the limited space we have.”

The superintendent pointed out that nearly half of the team teams in the Middlesex League that Belmont is a member play outside of their campus’.

It was determined that travel to and from Winn Brook will be lessened once an underpass is completed at the commuter rail line between Alexander Avenue and the new school.

Phelan noted that including tennis courts to the site would likely delay the issuance of the request for proposal for the new skating rink which will be voted on Tuesday night by the school committee.

To lessen the blow of having to play offsite, Phelan will be working with the town to request funds from the Community Preservation Committee to build two new courts at Winn Brook to allow for regular season and post-season tournament play.

Tennis, Anyone? Proposed Rink Delayed As Schools Seek Site For Varsity Courts [Video]

Photo: Belmont HS Juniors Brett Stievater and Phoebe Gray of the tennis teams seeking to bring back tennis courts to the new school campus.

After being delayed by more than six months due to concerns that the oversight process was too compressed, the anticipated solicitation of proposals for a new Belmont skating rink has again been put on hold as a last-minute appeal from supporters of Belmont High tennis has forced the School Committee to include five courts in the proposal.

The release of the request of proposal (RFP) for the new skating rink on school property west of Harris Field is now scheduled for Jan. 15, 2020 with the deadline for bidders to submit responses by Friday, March 20.

Additionally, the critical Town Meeting vote to approve the project and the transfer of the land for a public/private operation has been kicked from the first Town Meeting session in late April to the second night of the second session on June 1.

“There’s been an increasing call for the RFP to contain a programmatic need of tennis courts on the site and it finally came to a head,” said Jeffrey Wheeler, the town’s senior planner who is managing the RFP process.

The delay comes as the result of a last-minute push by a coalition of members of the high school tennis squads and racquet-loving residents who contend tennis was slighted in the design of the Belmont Middle and High School, the new 425,000 sq.-ft., $295 million school building that will house grades 7th to 12th.

While detailed plans for the new building and the land has been approved earlier in the year, the initial protest occurred when an army of supporters squeezed into the Chenery Middle School’s small conference room as if it was the Wimbledon grandstand before a championship final.

But the crowd of students, parents, and friends that came to the Belmont School Committee’s Nov. 12 meeting to express the collective unhappiness of their sport being ignored in the new school’s sports community.

“This is a simple question of equity,” said Katherine Stievater, a resident, parent of two varsity tennis players and boys’ tennis liaison to the Belmont Boosters Club.

“Members of the tennis team were disappointed and shocked when we learned that we’re the only varsity sport at Belmont High School that will not have its playing facilities rebuilt on the new campus,” said Belmont High Junior Brett Stievater who played varsity doubles last season.

The existing high school once had 10 courts near its east wing adjacent to the student parking lot, more than enough – five are required – to hold both the regular season and tournament matches.

But when the new school project was designed, it was discovered early on the building – which has a greater footprint than the existing building and roadways and parking – would put a squeeze on the playing fields surrounding the school. The solution was

Stievater noted that all other varsity teams will practice or play on the new campus

While the teams can use municipal courts to practice, that option will push residents off of playing surfaces that they have been using ,” said Donna Ruvolo, co-chairman of the Friends of Grove Street Park who was representing the municipal courts at the Grove Street Playground, adjacent to PQ Park and the Winn Brook Elementary School.

The campaigner’s support is wide and growing; petitions with several hundred signatures along with the support from the captains of each sports at the high school.

“It has been amazing to see other Belmont students support the tennis team being on campus. All varsity sports deserve to be represented on the new campus,” said Belmont High Girls’ Tennis representative Phoebe Gray.

“I think they know that it could have been them being sent off-campus,” said Gray.

While it appears movement has been made to restore the courts on school property, including those courts will likely force the schools to lose a playing field for other sports which it will be hard to replace, said Wheeler.

Wheeler noted the School Committee is planning to conduct a Community Impact Analysis which will determine the effect moving playing fields off-site will have for the students and other organizations such as Second Soccer. That analysis will. be completed by Jan. 7.

One longer-term hoped-for solution would occur with the construction of a pedestrian tunnel under the commuter rail tracks from Alexander Avenue to the high school campus, allowing for easier access for teams to the Winn Brook playing fields.

Post Season Schedule Set for Sprinters, Belmont Baseball, Tennis Teams

Three Belmont High School teams will be playing in the post season as Baseball and the Boys and Girls Tennis teams along with two exceptional sprinters on the track team received their tournament draws yesterday, May 27, from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Freshman Julia Cella is the favorite in the 200 meters – having run a season leading 26.07 – and a top contender in the 100 meters in the Div. 3 East track and field meeting taking place on Saturday, May 31 at Pembroke High School. She will also be anchoring the 4×100 meter relay ranked fourth in D3.  Joining her will be fellow freshman Rachel Berets in the 100 meter hurdles, the top 9th grader in the event. Junior Kayla Magno is a top eight threat in the 400 meters hurdles. Joining his teammates is junior Max Jones who has broken 23 seconds in the 200 meters and is rated 4th coming into the meet. Fellow junior Ari Silverfine dipped under 2 minutes in the 800 meters for a top 10 ranking this year.

Belmont High Baseball – which came out of the weekend’s Brendan Grant Tournament with a win and a loss – with a record of 11-9 has been seeded 9th in the Div. 2 North sections and will meet number 8 Beverly High School under the lights at Endicott College in Beverly on Friday, May 30 at 7 p.m. A win will see the Marauders head over to Gloucester on Saturday, May 31 to take on number 1 seed Gloucester High School.

The 8-8 Boys’ Tennis will be traveling to Topsfield to challenge the number 5 seed Masconomet Regional High School on Thursday, May 29 at 5:30 p.m. while Girls’ Tennis, with a record of 11-5 and co-champions of the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division, will host Tewksbury High School on Thursday, May 29 at 3:30 p.m. A Marauders victory will likely see a match between league co-champion Reading High School.