2 planned tennis courts at Oleai ‘useless’

Posted on Dec 08 2021
Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association president Jeff Race

Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association president Jeff Race is disappointed that tennis courts under the $21.2-million makeover of the Oleai Sports Complex have been reduced to two. (ROSELYN B. MONROYO)

Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Federation president Jeff Race lamented the downsizing of tennis courts from four to two for the planned $21.2-million makeover of the Oleai Sports Complex.

Speaking during a recent Northern Marianas Sports Association membership meeting, the CNMI Hall of Fame inductee said the CNMI Sports and Cultural Tourism Enhancement project has fallen short with regards to the tennis community’s dream of building a national tennis center in the area.

During a presentation last June, Office of Planning and Development director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong said the Economic Development Administration-funded project will include the construction of two International Tennis Federation tennis courts with associated facilities such as warm-up walls, fencing, and bleachers.

And those plans didn’t sit well with Race.

“That’s useless. You might as well have zero. You’re going from four to two is not reducing the utility by 50% it’s reducing it by 90%. We can’t use it. It’s not usable for us.”

The many time CNMI national tennis coach and former Pacific Oceania captain said the plan as presently constituted wasted the efforts NMITA exerted in helping the $21.2-million grant from EDA approved in the first place.

“We put in for four courts there and it was our federation, the tennis federation, that brought that project to the very top. I had dozens and dozens of people write letters in support of that. Far more than any other federation that I know of and we basically eliminated that as a national training center,” said Race.

Northern Marianas Sports Association executive director Carline Sablan said the CNMI Sports and Cultural Tourism Enhancement project is under the purview of Office of Planning and Development.

“None of us were involved in the discussions. We’re just here now receiving the news that we’re awarded [the grant] back in June. I don’t know what to say at this point. Most of us here also wondering how we’re going to fit two tennis courts in the property we have here as well as an Olympic-size pool between the baseball field and the softball field,” she said.

At this point, Race reiterated the utter futility of constructing only two tennis courts at the Oleai Sports Complex.

“The tennis association cannot use that as a tennis association facility for any kind of a national training center. That was our shot and now it’s gone,” he said.

“Please share your concerns with Kodep and his team. I really don’t know what we can do at this point,” was Sablan’s reply.

Aside from the tennis courts and Olympic-size swimming pool, the makeover of the Oleai Sports Complex will also include the renovation and rehabilitation of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium, Francisco “Tan Ko” M. Palacios Baseball Field, and the Oleai track and field.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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