Club Tennis Struggles For Time

Athletic department denies team free courts at Murr

The Men’s Club Tennis Team and the athletic department have been volleying furiously back and forth over court time, and club tennis players say the athletic department refuses to play between the lines.

According to team members, the team wants regular court time at the state-of-the-art Murr Center—the same facility where the varsity team plays—which they say they need in order to practice effectively.

But court time in the Murr can only be reserved for a fee that the club team says it can’t afford.

The athletic department has offered to rent the courts to the team for $12.50 per hour per court, which team members estimate would cost $2,700 per year—a figure they say is far more than they can afford with an annual allocation of $821 from the Undergraduate Council.

Athletic officials say their department depends on the revenue it gains from renting courts to the public to earn back the Murr’s 1998 multi-million dollar construction costs.

They also say there are too many groups competing for too little space to give the club team a block of time at the Murr.

Officials within the athletic department could not be reached to disclose the revenue the Murr generates in court fees.

Club tennis captains Harold M. Birnbaum ’04 and Justin D. Gest ’04 claim the athletic department is pursuing a money-making strategy at the expense of undergraduates—and have taken their request for court space to University President Lawrence H. Summers.

But the athletic department says the travails of the club team are symptoms of a space crunch that must inevitably put club sports below varsity and junior varsity teams on the priority ladder.

“I’m trying to do a lot of things for a lot of people,” said Director of Club Sports John Wentzell. “Very few are 100 percent happy with all they get all the time.”

A Matter of Money

Birnbaum and Gest, who is also a Crimson editor, say their goal at the outset of the year was to reserve time at the Murr Center.

Birnbaum says the club tennis team only wanted to use the courts at “low traffic” times such as late at night once during the week and on Sunday afternoons.

But Geoff Spies, the athletic operations coordinator, told the two that use of the Murr was not a possibility on a regular basis.

The athletic department later agreed to a $12.50 per hour, per court rental charge.

“All these facilities cost money to maintain,” Wentzell says. “There’s nothing sinister about it, its just real world economics.”