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Ojai Courts Will Receive Facelift


New courts, please.

The phrase is not part of any U.S. Tennis Assn. advertising promotion, but it sums up another campaign going on in Ojai, site of this week's 102nd Ojai Valley tennis tournament.

A push to rebuild the four aging tennis courts in upper Libbey Park and another at the lower, south end is expected to begin in October and be finished in time for next year's tournament.

The project, which will cost about $250,000, has moved ahead at the behest of the Ojai Valley Tennis Club, one of three civic groups providing financial support for the effort.

The Ojai Planning Commission last week recommended that the city council approve the installation of new high-performance lights that will allow for night play and the possibility of televising matches. Cost for eight light banks on each of the four upper courts is estimated at $45,000.

For the past eight years, the four 80-year-old courts at the north end of Libbey Park and the 26-year-old courts at the south end have required nearly annual filling of cracks, and re-sanding and re-painting of the areas at costs ranging from $1,500-$2,000 a court.

The Ojai Civic Assn. will contribute about $210,000 to the reconstruction. The city of Ojai and Santa Rosa residents Herb and Jane Dwight, who pledged to donate under the auspices of the Ojai Valley Tennis Club, are adding about $70,000 each. Herb Dwight is a retired businessman and former member of the Stanford University board of trustees.

New courts will be welcomed by Pacific 10 Conference coaches and officials. The Pac-10 individual championships are played at Libbey Park in conjunction with the Ojai tournament.

"A lot of times, we're at country clubs and things are real nice, and then suddenly we're in this public park," Stanford Coach Dick Gould said. "While there's lots of ambience and tradition, it is the conference championships."

The need for new courts became apparent in 1999, when patching was completed a few weeks before the tournament, only to be undone by weather conditions that caused raised cracks and ridges on courts.

"People could trip over it. It was pretty bad," said Wayne Bruce, a retired civil engineer and Ojai Valley Tennis Club member involved in the resurfacing.

Tournament officials called in a contractor and work crew, which used sledgehammers to pound down and smooth away raised, jagged edges of the cracks. The salvage job was finished the day before the tournament began.

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