MISSOULA — Something must be done soon to preserve Missoula's premiere outdoor tennis facility at Playfair Park.
At its best, there are no other public venues in the state that compare. You've got 12 tennis courts situated right next to a pristine pool, walking paths, basketball hoops and acres of plush grass for soccer.
So why leave the courts to crumble away?
Ask the city of Missoula and they're bound to tell you there's no money for Playfair's courts at the present time. Or maybe the experts that take care of weathered courts haven't been through town in a while. Or maybe all the money went to upgrading Fort Missoula's courts, or perhaps a herd of buffalo rumbled through one day.
Any of those excuses would be fine had the problem just cropped up this spring or even last spring. But for four years I've watched these dilapidated courts go from bad to awful.
It's so bad now that three courts don't even have net posts. At least three others have cracks that affect play and could cause an athlete to stumble.
The real losers in this predicament are the Missoula Sentinel and Hellgate tennis teams that practice there every day and host meets there. Loyola Sacred Heart also hosts meets at Playfair, and all schools pay good money to the city for the opportunity.
Do they get a discount when courts become unplayable? And who should we blame if Missoula is unable to host the State AA meet as scheduled next spring, thereby robbing local athletes of a dream opportunity and local businesses of revenue from out-of-towners?
The purpose of this column is not to condemn the city. They're doing a bang-up job repairing the street on my block and the newly-planted trees on the boulevard are nice.
It's more a call to action to pay attention to our local parks. Maybe put a plan in place to stop by and look over the Playfair courts a little more often to determine whether repairs are needed.
Playfair is not the only park in desperate need of help. Kiwanis Park has a sand volleyball court in need of repair. A lot of young people love to use that court. Young people that probably just accept the poor upkeep as a fact of life and move on.
The more people complain, the more likely action will be taken. So maybe it's time for more of us to lodge complaints about these courts. It's simply not enough for one or two of us to squawk because all that happens then is those that make the decisions dismiss us as goofballs.
Having decent courts for the general public to enjoy is not a goofball notion. Public parks are one of the many great benefits of living in Missoula, a place that's growing by leaps and bounds.
Playfair Park has gone from arguably the best place in the state to hold outdoor tennis tournaments to a dump. The Garden City Tennis Association rarely even uses the courts for competitions anymore.
It's time to do something about it. The more time wasted, the more net posts that are going to have to be taken down.
Sports Editor Bill Speltz is leaving the Missoulian after 15 years at the newspaper. He has accepted a job as editor at the Silver State Post in Deer Lodge. His final day is Friday.