MARION — Marion Park District on Thursday announced plans to renovate the tennis complex in Russell Street Park and renamed the park.
Jack Reed, director of parks and recreation, said the park district received a $200,000 grant from the Harrison-Bruce Foundation and will add nearly $50,000 from its capital improvement fund for the project.
Ashley Gott, park district president, said the tennis courts were in need of repair. The courts have large cracks running through them and pitted surfaces. The mechanisms that hold the net have rusted and are hard to adjust. The fence is sagging slightly. With the repairs, the facility is expected to last 25 to 30 years.
“We had money available, but we did not have enough,” Gott said.
Gott announced the park would be renamed Harrison-Bruce Park.
“It is to be known in perpetuity as Harrison-Bruce Park,” Reed said.
Gott added that the Harrison-Bruce Foundation has funded other projects in Marion, including building a pavilion, field houses and other projects to benefit children.
“We are thankful that we have friends like the Harrison-Bruce Foundation who can provide funds to help enhance our community,” Gott said.
“This is another great venture by Marion Park District to keep Marion a leader in services for the people of Marion,” Mayor Anthony Rinella said.
One person Reed said was extremely helpful in securing funding was Carrie Watson, head coach of Marion High School tennis program. She also runs the summer tennis program through The HUB Recreation Center.
“She was instrumental in the narrative we submitted to the Harrison-Bruce Foundation,” Reed said.
Few people understand what tennis offers youth in Marion better than Watson. She learned to play tennis through the summer tennis program for youth in Marion. She became the first female to receive a tennis scholarship at John A. Logan College in Carterville and is head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Marion High School.
Watson hopes to use the renovated courts for Marion Junior High Tennis Club. The high school program also uses tennis courts at the park, both for overflow during tournaments and as an evening practice spot.
“There isn’t a time when people are not on the courts (in the park),” Watson said. “This is going to be great.”
She added that Reed has done a great job of updating the improving the park system in Marion.
The next addition to Marion parks will be an inclusive play area in Ray Fosse Park. The new play area will be designed for all ages and abilities, so that all children and families can play together without physical or social barriers. Reed said they hope to break ground on the new play area in a month or so.
For more information, visit marionparks.com.