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Tennis courts will come back to Brandywine

NILES — Athletic staff at Brandywine Community Schools could not recall the final season the district’s tennis courts were played on. Some remember their remnants, cracked, full of weeds and unplayable.

Now, for the first time this century, usable tennis courts will be on Brandywine Middle/Senior High School’s campus, and Brandywine’s boys and girls tennis programs will have a home court.

On Monday evening, Brandywine’s school board unanimously approved a $554,725 contract with Selge Construction Company, of Niles, to install the courts. An additional $65,275 will be spent on architectural fees, permits and other requirements.

Construction will begin once the ground thaws, and the courts will be ready for seasonal play by the boys fall tennis season.

The tennis courts will be one of the first structures visitors see when they enter Brandywine’s campus, 1700 Bell Road, Niles. The already-graded grass to the left of the school’s main entrance will soon have eight courts and a walkway.

Girls tennis coach, Joe Marazita, and boys tennis coach, David Sidenbender, both said the approval was a longtime coming. Marazita has been a Brandywine tennis coach for 30 years, while Sidenbender has been a coach for 12.

“It’ll be great to have courts on our own campus,” Marazita said. “Once we have the courts, the players will be able to walk to practice and the home matches.”

Previously, the teams practiced and hosted matches at Plym Park’s courts, about a 12-minute drive from school without traffic.

Students would either have to drive themselves or catch a ride to the parks to play.

“I’m excited for it. It’ll be nice not having to drive to Plym every day,” said Jacob Fox, a junior playing first singles. “We can have practice sooner, get out sooner. It’ll just make everything a lot easier.”

When Fox was a ninth grader, he got rides to the park from upperclassmen. He said if it were not for his teammates, making it on the team would be more difficult.

He also noted that the park’s courts were not being well-maintained.

Marazita said a few students have gotten into vehicle crashes while driving to Plym Park. The risk of injury will be subverted when the tennis courts are completed.

The tennis program can soon host matches and tournaments on the eight courts, and Marazita hopes it will draw in more spectators.

“So much of the time, the only spectators, because they’re not on the campus, are the parents,” he said. “Now, it will be really inclusive.”

Staff, faculty and students will be able to watch Brandywine’s winning tennis teams compete after school. Marazita hopes to eventually host a spring sport day, where all of Brandywine’s seasonal teams can host games and matches at Brandywine.

“With the courts here, our program should explode even more with just the numbers of players playing,” Sidenbender said.

The home tennis courts allow physical education classes to include units on teaching tennis, which Sidenbender hopes will raise interest in the sport.

That is not to say Brandywine’s tennis program is struggling. The girls team is hoping to become a top 10 team in the state for a third year in a row and an eighth straight conference championship. Fox hopes his team will make state this fall and that he will personally make the regional final.

“If you look at our track record for our girls and boys tennis, we actually have pretty good programs,” said Vance Stratton, athletic director. “That’s absolutely amazing considering that we don’t have our own facility.”

The upcoming tennis courts are part of a larger plan Stratton and the district have to make sports facilities more accessible to athletes, spectators and community members.

Last year, Brandywine completed construction on an auxiliary fitness center on the site where the district’s former tennis courts were located. The center boasts an indoor track, gym and a weight room. The district is working on making it more available for students and community events, Stratton said.

The next athletic addition to Brandywine Middle/Senior High School’s campus is to move its baseball diamond closer to its softball diamond, making it more reachable.