The tennis courts at Central Washington University have been closed since the end of April due to safety and security concerns. According to CWU, people have been using the courts for things other than tennis, prompting the university to lock them up and remove the nets.
“The tennis courts don’t have good security system,” Provost Michelle DenBeste said. “The police have been called a few times, there have been some incidences of people doing things besides playing tennis on the tennis courts, which is not particularly good for the tennis courts’ surface either. People are using them for rollerblading, things like that.”
DenBeste said the university is working to get the courts reopened, and she hopes they will be available to students, in particular those who are a part of the CWU tennis club, before the end of the school year.
Jazmin Chau, CWU tennis club president, said the club is working closely with CWU to open the courts back up for the club. The club was informed of the university’s decision on April 28, a day before the courts were closed.
“Our club has a special bond, and we truly enjoy each other’s company especially during these difficult times,” Chau told the Daily Record via email. “With the news being so sudden, we were devastated. Our club has built so many life-long friendships. We come to practice not only to play, but to build connection within our club. It’s sad the we are not out on the courts having fun, but we are fighting to gain access to the courts again.”
Another factor in the university’s decision was the possible spread of the coronavirus between members of the community who use the tennis courts. As a result of the pandemic, the university is mostly closed to the public, and open tennis courts are a concern of the university.
“Everyone wants to play on Central’s tennis courts and that’s a little bit of a problem,” DenBeste said.
She said that if the courts are opened before the end of the school year, it is unlikely they will be made available to the public.
Ellensburg resident Jim Daly said he was irritated by the university’s decision. He has no affiliation with CWU, but has been using the courts two to three times a week until they were closed. He said he doesn’t understand why the university kept the courts open for most of the pandemic, only to close them once people started getting vaccinated.
“Virtually all the people I play with are fully vaccinated,” Daly said. “They are older people generally with a few student exceptions, but we’re all fully vaccinated.”
The pandemic concern is only a part of the reason the university has closed the courts, according to DenBeste. She said there are a number of reasons for the decision including vandalism and improper use of the courts.
“The tennis issue is not a purely COVID issue. It is a COVID issue, we are trying to limit the number of people who are not students or faculty on campus for safety, but as the tennis students rightly pointed out tennis is outside,” DenBeste said. “I think we could manage the COVID piece, but we need to figure out how we can manage the security piece.”
The fact that it was multiple factors triggering the university’s decision does not appear to have been well communicated to the public. Students on the tennis club as well as members of the community like Daly were under the impression that the only reason for the courts closure was concerns regarding the pandemic.
DenBeste said the reason for this misinformation could have been because multiple people were communicating the different issues. She said one of the responses the students got was purely that it was COVID related. The community also got a similar statement, but this was because for them, it is COVID related, the university wants to limit the number of people on campus.