By Dustin Luca
---- — The Friends of Andover Tennis are hitting the road next week to begin their pitch for $400,000 to improve Andover High tennis courts.
The group is slated to appear before the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen next Wednesday, March 6, according to group coordinator Brian Frykenberg, where they will go over the project and what they hope to receive at Town Meeting in May.
For the last few years, the non-profit organization has been working to renovate the current tennis facility at Andover High School, which has seven courts in need of resurfacing.
The group has raised $40,000 to go toward replacing the facility's playing surface, which is estimated to cost around $340,000 before contingency money is added, according to Frykenberg.
Over the last 24 years, which is when the courts were lasted renovated, areas have cracked and formed small "duck ponds" where water collects. These issues make the courts unsafe for the stop-and-go nature of tennis, where players focus on where the ball is — not where they're running, Frykenberg said.
"Right now, you don't see (the courts) being used that much aside from the teams," he said. "They're beat up. There are a couple of courts not used even for match play, which puts (teams) in jeopardy of being disqualified from Merrimack Valley Conference play."
It has gotten to a point at the courts that local teams recognize there is a "home-court advantage" because the courts tend to pitch from one side to another, according to Frykenberg.
"I remember talking to the girls' team members. They said there's a lucky side, and an unlucky side," he said. "You're serving downhill if you're serving from south to north."
The high school space contains seven of the dozen or so town-owned tennis courts, which includes four courts at Pomps Pond.
Facilities also exist at a number of privately owned Andover health clubs, but Frykenberg said the goal is to maintain outdoor facilities that the public can use.
The $400,000 is being requested as part of this year's Annual Town Meeting. The group expects to chip in the $40,000 it has raised to offset that cost, and an as-yet-unawarded grant opportunity could further reduce the cost to taxpayers, say supporters.
Previously, the group has offered different figures for both what the project will cost and what they hoped to raise, with the project originally projected to cost around $200,000 to resurface in 2011. At the time, the group said it expected to raise $100,000 for the project.
"Three years ago, we were very optimistic that we could raise similar to the football boosters — we could raise an enormous amount of money," Frykenberg said. "We've adjusted our number and said, 'OK, we're going to give whatever we can.'"