In his 2009 autobiography, Andre Agassi tells how he played his first professional tournament in Schenectady. That’s a reminder of what this small city once had: a serious, free-admission tennis tournament that attracted lots of future and already-established stars, thanks to Davis Etkin, the tennis-loving former Capital Region Off-Track Betting chief. There are other reminders, including a tennis stadium in Central Park that Etkin built specially for the tournament, which now sits mostly unused, and a couple of totally unused trailers just outside the stadium.
The trailers, abandoned by Etkin’s former tournament manager, Nitty Singh, after her professional World Team Tennis League team, the NY Buzz, decamped for Albany in 2007, need to be removed — in fact, should have been long ago. They are boarded-up, graffiti-ridden, deteriorated and unattractive — except to vagrants, vandals and perhaps curious children, who might be injured trying to gain access. In other words, potential lawsuits. The city should call Nitty Singh, if she is still responsible for them, and have her remove them; if, for some reason, she is no longer responsible, it should remove them itself.
As for the tennis stadium, the city needs to find ways to get more use out of it. Etkin and his son are trying to raise money for another free, high-quality tennis tournament. If they can, that would be a boon to Schenectady, and the city should be willing to spend the $5,000 or so needed to resurface the court.
But things like replacing the bleachers, press box and scoreboard are beyond the city’s means at this time. That’s why the city has applied to the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for a grant to do them, as well as lay down a protective surface that would allow the court to be used for many things besides tennis, such as concerts, dances, plays and boxing matches. The stadium is in a lovely setting among the trees, and it’s a shame not to take advantage.
Visitors to that area of the park will notice two other recent changes. One is a new, brick storage building, just beyond the leftfield fence of the “A Diamond.” It’s not particularly unattractive, but it is quite large and imposing. Just as important, was this structure, which will be used to store grass-mowing equipment now stored at the city’s facility on Oregon Avenue, and some baseball equipment, really necessary?
Also questionable are the canvas sides added to the picnic pavilion. These were paid for by the local running club and put up before the Stockade-athon. And now they are being left up — to allow the pavilion to be used in colder weather. The trouble is, they’re quite ugly. Whether they cost the city money or not, they should be used only when there’s a special event.
Central Park is too beautiful and important to make ad hoc decisions like this. New structures, uses and other changes shouldn’t be the exclusive call of city officials and interested groups. The city needs a broad-based Citizens Advisory Commission to help map out a vision and make decisions about the park.