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Council members learn about indoor tennis courts proposal, make no promises

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A group of tennis enthusiasts served up their plans on Monday night to the Watertown City Council to build indoor tennis courts on city-owned land at the Fairgrounds Y.

Stressing the project is still in the planning stage, Cyril Mouaikel has been leading a community campaign since last summer to help raise money for indoor tennis courts that would be added to the Fairgrounds Y building, 585 Rand Drive. So far, donors have pledged about half of the $400,000 needed for the project.

The project needs the approval from council members to either sell the land or lease it to the group. It also needs the state Legislature to pass home-rule legislation, since it deals with selling or leasing land in a public park.

On Monday night, council members did not make any promises to the group, saying they need to figure out how the tennis courts would affect city Parks and Recreation Department plans for land behind the existing Y building and its effects on other programs.

Saying he recognizes the need for indoor courts, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said, “We need some discussions with parks staff and the city manager to see what they think.”

About 20 tennis players and enthusiasts attended Monday night’s work session. The U.S. Tennis Association recently met with the group, indicating it liked the project and might contribute funding, organizer James W. Newell said.

Under the proposal, the group would be responsible for raising the money and then the Y would operate the courts. The Y’s board of directors has yet to take any action on the plans.

Two indoor courts would be constructed on the back of the Y building, near the existing horse arena, Mr. Mouaikel said. It would also be used by high school teams.

The mayor noted that parents of hockey players and other athletes also believe their children have particular needs from the city.

“We have the need and the solution and the financing,” Mr. Mouaikel said.

Councilman Joseph M. Butler told the group he would like the city to help with the project if it can.

The mayor and Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns had said they had not heard about the project until an article appeared in the Watertown Daily Times.

Mr. Mouaikel, RBC Wealth Management branch director, started his campaign almost immediately after Stebbins Engineering and Manufacturing Co. purchased the Watertown Health & Racquet Club, 431 Eastern Blvd., and turned it last year into a storage building for construction equipment. He had used the indoor courts there and wants to see indoor courts back in the community.

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