Tennis in Mini Games viable

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Jeff Race plays at the American Memorial Park tennis courts during the 2019 Coconut Tennis Classic early this year. (Saipan Tribune)

The Northern Marianas Sports Association will be discussing the inclusion of tennis in the calendar of events for the 2021 Pacific Mini Games when it meets with Pacific Games Council officials next month.

During the NMSA monthly board meeting last Thursday, Northern Mariana Tennis Association official and CNMI National Team coach Jeff Race said that the National Parks Services has identified funding to resurface the American Memorial Park tennis courts in time to include the sport in the Mini Games.

Race has been working on getting tennis into the Mini Games program since the hosting rights was awarded to the Commonwealth in 2014. However, availability of funds for the resurfacing of the AMP facility was still in question when the list of programs for the quadrennial meet was submitted to the Pacific Games Council.

“I had spoken with the supervising ranger at the American Memorial Park. The supervising ranger said that ‘we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to identify National Park Services funds to resurface the tennis courts prior to the scheduled games in June 2021’,” Race said.

“Tennis was not included in the Mini Games and we just had a super successful campaign in the Pacific Games (Samoa) and so we really want it to be in the next Games so we’re working on putting it back in. The reason why it wasn’t included first was because we needed to resurface the courts and we didn’t have the money to do it,” he added.

Meanwhile, NMSA president Michael White welcomed the inclusion of tennis to the Mini Games program and they would discuss the good news with PGC officials, who will visit Saipan next month.

“We have to tell the Pacific Games Council when we meet here on Saipan what sports we’re going to offer and hopefully we’ll have a definite commitment to them to resurface the tennis courts,” White said.

White added that they would also discuss including weightlifting if the federation can find a way to get equipment in time for the Mini Games.

“We dropped weightlifting from the program because we didn’t have the money to buy weights or get them here. The weightlifting has an open invitation, if they can find ways to do that, without costing us any money, then we’ll try our best to get weightlifting back on the program,” the NMSA head said.

Initially, athletics, baseball, badminton, beach volleyball, golf, and triathlon made the list of sports that will be offered in the Mini Games. The lineup had to be shortened from 12 to six, as budget for Saipan’ hosting of the Mini Games had been sliced from $8 million to $3 million. The CNMI government earlier withdrew its commitment to the hosting of the Games citing budgetary concerns after Super Typhoon Yutu struck the islands in October last year, but had a change of heart after negotiating with the PGC and other stakeholders.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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