By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – An indoor tennis complex planned for University Village scored another victory last week.
The Board of Regents approved an agreement Thursday that allows the University of Nebraska at Kearney and city of Kearney to build and operate the $7.5 million facility.
Under the agreement, the city will construct, own and operate the six-court tennis complex located along North Railroad Street on the south edge of UNK’s University Village development. UNK will provide operational and maintenance support throughout the 25-year contract.
“The joint operational support for this facility enables UNK and the city to address maintenance, custodial services and landscaping in cost-effective ways,” said Jon Watts, vice chancellor for business and finance at UNK.
A donor-driven project, the tennis complex will be paid for primarily with private contributions and a $1.125 million grant awarded to the city by the state’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund. Donor commitments are expected to cover about $5.5 million of the total cost.
The tennis complex will serve the entire community, with opportunities for private and public tournaments, lessons, recreation and team activities for Kearney schools and UNK. A proposed floor plan includes the six indoor courts, offices, a meeting room, lockers and reception and lobby area.
“The new facility will provide critical practice and competitive space to UNK’s women’s tennis team,” Watts said. “Since its inception in 1975, the team has faced unique challenges regarding the need for indoor space during cold and inclement weather.”
UNK’s women’s tennis team plays its home matches on the outdoor courts at Harmon Park. The indoor complex will give the Lopers another option during inclement weather.
In addition to benefiting local schools and recreational players, Watts said the first-class tennis facility will support the Kearney economy by bringing out-of-town guests to town for tournaments, clinics or leagues. Those visitors are likely to book hotel rooms, eat at restaurants and shop at retail stores, boosting business and contributing to the city’s sales tax revenue.
“This collaborative effort demonstrates UNK’s commitment to regional economic growth and further builds upon the integrated university and community vision for University Village,” Watts said.
Construction of the tennis complex is expected to begin next fall, with a goal of opening the facility in 2021. Six additional outdoor courts are part of the University Village master plan, a project that’s contingent on future funding.
University Village is a public-private development south of UNK’s main campus planned as a mixed-use urban village featuring residential, retail, academic, recreation, community engagement and service industry facilities in a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood.
The 104-acre development includes Village Flats, a 99-unit, apartment-style housing complex for UNK students, staff and faculty completed in summer 2018, and UNK’s LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center, which opened last month. Construction of a Regional Engagement and Alumni Center could begin there as early as next summer.