Great Neck Park District lays out plans for potential tennis center purchase

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Great Neck Park District Commissioner Robert Lincoln said Wednesday officials would need to make a decision by the end of the month on pursuing the purchase of the Kings Point Tennis Center at 143 Steamboat Road for an indoor recreational facility.
About 75 people attended a presentation by park district officials on preliminary plans and background information under evaluation as they consider buying the tennis center.
Lincoln said after the meeting at the Great Neck House that it was “clear that there is community support.”
“We believe very strongly that input from our residents is essential to give us the guidance we need when making certain decisions,” he said.
Lincoln said discussions to purchase the Kings Point Tennis Center, a privately owned facility, were in preliminary stages but there is “no question that he is going to sell that property and that building to somebody.”
Park district Superintendent Jason Marra said officials believe the approximately 13,855-square-foot property could be used to accomplish the park district’s goal of promoting health and wellness for residents of all ages.
The proposed purchase of the property and renovations of the building, Marra said, would cost between $5 million and $7 million.
He said the dollars cited were a “high-end” estimate, so that the park district would not need to come back and tell residents that the price will increase.
Marra said the park district would issue a 20-year bond, at a 2.2 percent interest rate, to pay for the project. He estimated that the increase in taxes for park district residents would be between $26 and $36 per household.
Lincoln said for the park district to move forward with negotiations, it would need to take action at some point this month and make a $250,000 down payment, which would be applied to the total cost of the project.
“If we want the property, basically we have to pay some sort of down payment to have the option to continue,” he said. We’re talking somewhere about $250,000, which the park district has. We don’t have to raise taxes for that one-time cost.”
The board of commissioners’ attorney, Chris Prior, said the down payment they were exploring was a “purchase option contract” with the owner, meaning the park district would have the sole right to purchase the property if it makes the down payment.
“The attraction of that for the park district is it locks up the property so that it could not be sold to a third party while the board is pursuing the transaction,” Prior said.
If the board determines that the project is not feasible or the community does not want it, he said, then the park district could sell that option to a third party.
“In that manner we would hope to get back the $250,000 or some portion of it,” Prior said. “Of course that’s not a guarantee, we would need to find a purchaser for that option, but we think based upon the market terms that are being floated around now that there’s a fairly good chance we could recoup some of that in the event we elected not to exercise the option.”
He added that the length of the option was still being determined, but it would need to accommodate a six-month process for bonding.
Lincoln said the park district also has to figure out how to improve parking at the location, as off-street parking is “certainly not adequate” for what it intends to provide at the recreational facility.
“There are some properties in the vicinity that we could possibly rent or work out some kind of agreement, maybe even purchase,” he said. “We’re looking at a few alternatives.”
Marra said the board was still determining what type of programs would be offered, the hours of operation and any fees involved for programs.
He also said that one of the benefits of the tennis center’s location was its proximity to Kings Point Park.
“The properties are right up against each other so we envision connecting the park to the facility to the trail system to the open fields, so I think the location of it in that aspect is another unique opportunity to connect one of our largest parks that we have a lease agreement with,” Marra said.
Dylan Chamin, a fifth-grade student at Saddle Rock Elementary School, said the proposed facility was a great idea as it would give him and his friends a place to play sports and socialize.
“We need a safe and positive place like this in Great Neck for us to play sports and spend time together,” Chamin said. “We have loved playing at the rec center at Parkwood in the summers and would love a place like this for all year-round.”
Currently, the park district uses its Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink during the summer for indoor recreational activities.
“In the summer time when it’s hot and the parks are open and the playgrounds are open, they’re coming indoors to be with friends and be in the recreation center,” Marra said. “So you imagine the impact it could have during the winter months when those parks and those opportunities are not available.”
Great Neck Historical Society President Alice Kasten said an indoor recreational facility would be a “wonderful thing” for everyone and that youth in the area have no place to hang out at night.
Some residents questioned whether people from outside of the park district would be able to utilize the facility.
Lincoln said it was not intended to be a “commercial operation,” but the park district would consider allowing people to rent out the facility for a “handsome fee” or register for certain programs or leagues.
“The plan is not to just rent the place out first come first serve,” he said. “The residents always come first.”
Lincoln also said that before it could go forward for a bond issue, it would need to have a public hearing at the park district and at the Town of North Hempstead.
Park district officials urged residents to contact them with any comments or concerns about the indoor recreational facility.
They can be contacted at gnparks@greatneckparks.org.

By Joe Nikic

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