After years of discussions, the only public tennis courts on Hilton Head Island’s south end finally have the funds for a facelift.
The Town of Hilton Head Island announced a $40,000 grant for the Cordillo Tennis Courts from the United States Tennis Association on Wednesday, which will be used to “refurbish four 78-foot tennis courts,” according to a town news release.
The courts will be closed to “allow a contractor to demolish and replace the tennis courts and surrounding fence,” the town announced in late April.
After the redevelopment, a nonprofit organization in Beaufort County, Public Tennis Inc., will provide tennis programs for adults and kids at the facility, according to the news release.
Standing on the tennis courts as they are, it’s likely you’ll forget you’re on Hilton Head or less than a mile from Coligny Beach Park.
There are tears in the fence that surrounds the courts, and a large white stain in the middle of one court where someone likely spilled a can of paint.
Surprise from the community
The Cordillo Courts have long been subject of town discussion, and the Hilton Head Town Council nearly sold the dilapidated public courts to a nearby housing complex in December 2017, according to previous reporting by The Island Packet.
The newest announcement comes as a surprise for some who have been involved with the project.
Narendra Sharma, the founder of local poverty-fighting organization on the south end Neighborhood Outreach Connection, said the courts’ redevelopment is good — but different from what the community was promised.
“This is completely new. This is really surprising,” Sharma said of the four adult-size tennis courts that will be developed.
In 2017, a redevelopment plan included several youth and adult tennis courts with space for pickleball, a community center and parking for the area.
Sharma supported a big community center at the time.
“The project makes a lot of sense,” Sharma said in 2017. “The community building is an integral component of the project that can be used by the community at large. ... It benefits the entire community.”
Now, the project only includes a small building with restrooms and storage.
Sharma’s organization once used the Cordillo Courts as a play area until the after-school program was relocated to St. Luke’s Church as part of an out-of-court settlement between Neighborhood Outreach Connection and the Cordillo Courts board in 2017, the Island Packet previously reported.
Once the project is completed, Sharma said he would be interested in moving the program back to the Cordillo Courts area.
That plan was originally estimated to be complete by November 2019, and carried a price tag between $650,000 and $700,000, according to Scott Liggett, the town’s director of public projects and facilities and chief engineer.
The project will be funded by both the recent grant and Sunday liquor permit sales, according to the town website.
Despite the redevelopment plans, the Sea Cabin Racquet Club II Horizontal Property Regime, which oversees Cordillo Courts, is still suing the town for not professionally maintaining the courts — as was part of the contract when the courts were were purchased from Dennis Van Der Meer in 2002.
The suit was filed in February 2018 in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas.
The property is governed by covenants restricting the use of the land to tennis, the Island Packet has previously reported.
Now, the Cordillo Courts plan is divided into two phases, according to senior planner with the town, Anne Cyran.
On April 22, the courts closed for demolition and construction work to begin on the first phase, which will completely re-mill and re-develop four full-size courts with painted striping for adult tennis, youth tennis and pickleball.
The second phase will be site improvements, which include more parking and the small building which will include restrooms and storage, Cyran said.
Although there’s not a definite timeline for the second phase of the project, Cyran said construction will likely begin after tourist season this year.
She said the cost of the project will be comparable to Liggett’s estimates in 2018.