School Board votes to demolish tennis courts

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SARASOTA-- The battle off the court to save the courts has reached its conclusion.

On Tuesday night, Sarasota County School Board members voted 5-0 to move forward with plans to demolish the eight tennis courts at Sarasota High School. A new bus loop drop off will go in its place and will open when school starts next year. It's part of a $40 million renovation project at the school.

"It was all about safety and security for our students. We really need an additional bus loop," said School Board Chairman Jane Goodwin.

Over the past few months, the news of demolishing the courts has been met with sharp criticism from hundreds of Sarasota residents. Since the 1970's the courts have been open to the public. On Tuesday afternoon, 836 people had signed a petition urging the School Board not to move forward with plans. Many of them asked school officials to look at other options. However, it would have cost the District even more money to explore those options or relocate the courts.

"It appears the School Board is out of touch with the public. We elect them to be the interface between citizens and the school system," said Sarasota resident Mike Lasche.

To appease those disappointed by the vote, school leaders did announce plans to reopen four tennis courts at Brookside Middle School, located about two miles from Sarasota High.

"We appreciate everyone who came out. Everybody was heard. We did hear the community loudly, but we feel we made the right decision," Goodwin said.

It still remains unclear where the Sarasota High School tennis team will practice and hold matches next year. Two options include Brookside Middle and the courts at Payne Park. In the end, it will be a decision left up to the school's athletic department.