Plans to the rebuild the bathrooms serving the Elings Park tennis courts, while adding a kitchen, dining patio, and exercise instruction room — not to mention three new clay courts in the far-off future — got a decidedly frosty reception from the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review (ABR) this Tuesday. Elings, a private park, took over the courts a year ago at the instigation of the City Parks and Recreation Department — which has owned it since the 1970s — because it could no longer afford to cover the cost of deferred maintenance. This elicited a hue and cry among some of the tennis players who’d long used the public courts, and many were on hand to voice their displeasure with the latest plans.
But the sharpest remarks were made by ABR members. Some suggested that the initial renderings — meant only for conceptual review — were too vague and insufficiently detailed; others likened the proposed design to that of Cutter Motors, cautioning park administrators from building anything that resembles a BMW or Jaguar dealership. Commissioners were less than enamored of the two-story elements of the new structure, which would be about three times the square footage of the existing locker room–bath house structure.
Park administrators say they need to generate about $120,00 a year to be economically sustainable; they’re currently generating about $25,000 annually on court rentals. By programming the space more intensely — holding tounaments and offering lessons and clinics — they’re hoping to help create a new hub for the South Coast’s tennis community. By building an exercise facility as well as new dining area, they’ll generate additional revenues and create a space where parents can hang after dropping off their kids. No such space currently exists there. Tuesday’s meeting was conceptual in nature, so no vote was taken. But by the end, it was clear the park architect had been sent back to the drawing board.