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Cuesta tennis courts up for grabs again

Prospective operators compete for lucrative contract after Tim Foley ousted by city

Cuesta Park's tennis courts will have a new operator since the city decided to replace hometown favorite Tim Foley over a number of alleged breaches of contract.

Foley barely survived a contract-renewal fight three years ago, but since then has run afoul of city administrators, who say he failed to perform employee background checks, obtain a business license or report his finances to the city.

Dressed mostly in track suits, several prospective tennis court operators met in the Cuesta tennis building on Tuesday afternoon with recreation supervisor Henry Perezalonso, who characterized the community as "passionate about tennis, especially at Cuesta."

Perezalonso discussed the contract requirements with the prospective operators, who are eager to win the lucrative right to schedule court times and provide tennis lessons and other services at the complex beginning in June.

Three years ago, Cuesta regulars packed the City Council chambers to support Foley and oppose a city recommendation that he be replaced, expressing fear that a commercially oriented operator would hurt the informal atmosphere there. Foley had originally gotten the job when a previous operator somehow transferred the contract to him. Despite objections from city staff, some council members and prospective operators, Foley's supporters were able to keep him in the job.

But in the time since, city staff report that Foley "has not complied with various items in the agreement which have included financial or reporting obligations, business license and insurance requirements and background checks for employees contractors and volunteers."

"I'm disappointed because it turned out as I expected," said council member Tom Means, who unsuccessfully fought to have the tennis operator pay bills for court maintenance. "A lot of people from the community gave him high marks," he said, but according to others, "Tim's a nice guy but he's not a business person."

Foley did not return a phone message left with staff at the Cuesta Tennis Center.

Community over revenue

Perezalonso told prospective operators that the city was looking for an operator who would provide tennis court access to everyone as a priority over generating revenue for the city, a policy that came from the community, not staff. Operators would provide minor upkeep of the center, manage volunteers and employees, help organize tournaments and league play while paying the city $24,000 a year (increasing by $1,000 a year) for the exclusive right to charge for tennis lessons and classes on city tennis courts and collect user fees.

The city's goal is to recover about half of the city's annual tennis court maintenance costs. That concerns council member Means, who says operators in Sunnyvale and Cupertino make hundreds of thousands a year on city tennis courts.

"People say the golf course is draining the city, but that's nonsense," Means said. "The tennis center is a bigger drain, I guarantee it."

In a March 11 city staff report, Perezalonso warned that the city may increase the operator fees in the future because of the city's "increasingly difficult financial situation."

The prospective operators got a tour of the facility Tuesday, and combed over every portion of the Cuesta tennis building as if buying a new car. Business plans from them are due April 16.

Wearing a business suit, prospective operator Dana Gill stood out from the crowd. He operates city tennis centers in Pleasanton and Cupertino, and was the favored operator of city staff three years ago. Staff said he offered expanded hours, new programs and greater revenue, but would possibly reduce availability for walk-on play.

"This is one of the most storied community facilities in Northern California, second only to Golden Gate Park," Gill said. "This used to be one of the most popular facilities around." It's a place you want to come just to "hang out," he said. "They don't make them like this anymore."

Locally, Cuesta was the center of the 1970s tennis boom. For over 40 years it has been the home of the Mountain View Open, a tournament that has seen many of its competing pros go on to the U.S. Open or Wimbledon.

But lately Cuesta hasn't been utilized as much as it could be, Gill said. The eight courts at Rengstorff Park, originally envisioned as a second tennis center, have never been well utilized.

But that all may change with a new operator, as tennis is "definitely" becoming more popular, said Todd Dissly, who came in second in the city's 2006 selection process. Dissly runs tennis centers in San Jose, Los Gatos and Saratoga.

Today the Cuesta courts are dominated by about 100 players who are as "passionate about tennis as they were when [Cuesta first opened," Gill said. Ever since the controversy in 2006 over Foley and the future of the Cuesta Tennis Center, Gill said he has learned to respect this group of players. But he adds that "there's room for everybody" as he considers ways to educate a new crop of players on the Cuesta tennis courts.

Comments

Posted by oldschgrl, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Maybe i'm wrong but doesn't a Tim Foley already work for the City
of Mountain View? isn't this double dipping or conflict of interest?
or maybe it's the same name on another person? - just asking.


Posted by a concerned neighbor, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 9, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Why should walk-on plays be limited with the new operator? The spontaneity of being able to walk-on play at Cuesta Tennis is one of the best features of living in Mountain View. Our children frequently runs over to Cuesta after homework or dinner to play tennis for an hour or so. It would be very disappointing not to be able to do that in a neighborhood park.


Posted by a regular since the beginning, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm

The Cuesta tennis culture is unique. I almost never pre-arrange matches, I just go over and can always find someone to hit balls with. When the courts are full, there are people to talk with as we wait. Newcomers who start to show up regularly are soon asked to join in, made welcome. The level of play is beginner to advanced, and you quickly find comparable players to your skills. If the courts are especially crowded, people will invite others for doubles, so everyone can get to play.

It's important for any new operator to preserve this drop-by, walk-on culture.


Posted by Irene, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2009 at 7:21 am

I suggest those concerned about walk up play check out the Pleasanton Tennis Center. Yes there is organized play on the majority of courts but there are several courts set aside for walk on play. Especially at the hour that children would want to play, there are always courts available. Adults may have to plan ahead a bit.
In these days of dwindling budgets, it only makes sense that Cities are looking to generate revenue to cover operating costs. Recreation is usually the first on the chopping block - remember Prop 13? Lower taxes, less services offerred


Posted by Smart Growther, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 10, 2009 at 10:02 am

Cuesta Park is considered a regional park and hence so is the tennis center. There are plenty of neighborhood parks with tennis courts in the area where it is first come, first serve. The Tennis center is dominated by a small group of players who want to keep it at low cost and heavily subsidized by the city. Nearby cities, Sunnyvale and Cupertino, have tennis centers that pay for themselves and generate over 100K to the city.


Posted by GDM, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Are there other public tennis courts in Mountain View on the south side of El Camino?

I wouldn't call Cuesta a Regional Park, Shoreline is a Regional Park, Cuesta is a City Park.


Posted by Marc Shaw, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 12:54 pm

The tennis center at Cuesta Park was one of the reasons I choose to move to Mountain View, 20+ years ago. It was a place my son could go play tennis as well as myself. I'm happy to pay my fair share of taxes to keep the culture as it is. If any of the comment makers were a tennis player, you would certainly be against having the Sunnyvale or Cupertino model in our community, with membership fees, and high use fees for using the courts, not to mention scheduling, which is a nightmare. This is suppose to be a public park, not a private club.


Posted by oldschgrl, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm

yes, there are tennis courts at Rengstorff park but that would mean crossing 'to the other side', El Camino.


Posted by Smart Growther, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm

There are courts at Cooper park


Posted by anon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:05 am

Preserve the community feel of cuesta
The sunnyvale and Cupertino models have driven people away from those facilities ... It is almost impossible to get a walk on court at those facilities and they are dominated by USTA teams


Posted by Pat Raichlen, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I hope that the city will allow Cuesta Tennis center to remain a community focused entity. Three years ago, I argued against Dana Gill to run Cuesta because I recognized that while he could indeed run an upscale, money making tennis business, he really had absolutely no understanding of the Mtn. View community or its citizens. Dana Gill took over the Cupertino Tennis Center and has certainly made it successful-if your definition of success is strictly monetary. The Cupertino facility was always pay to play because it was a private tennis club before it was taken over by Dana Gill's organization. This type of center is far more appropriate for cities such as Los Altos or Saratoga where the residents can afford the higher prices demanded in the Cupertino style model. I know people who left the Cupertino Tennis Club because it was too expensive and court availability for the average recreational player was abysmal. I hope whoever takes over the center is required to accommodate the less affluent members of our community by continuing to offer low cost lessons as well as the junior team tennis program currently in place. I know the economic climate is extremely difficult at the moment but I hope that the city will find a way to achieve a better run organization without sacrificing the priceless community jewel that is Cuesta Tennis Center.


Posted by Randall Bettman, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I'm 18 and since I was little have been attending lessons at the tennis center, have been involved with the junior team tennis program. For the past two years, I had been working there too. Personally, I love seeing regulars at the center who are all very courteous, patient and understanding. But, I also like even more to see new people come in and sign up for lessons or court time slots. The one thing I cringe at is having to charge people ever-increasing prices for courts. I realize there needs to be a balance between availability and revenue, but as Pat said, the community surrounding the tennis center is a priceless jewel and must be conserved and expanded upon.


Posted by Alex, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 16, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Hi, my name is Alex and i was wondering if there are any good coaches at cuesta park that could give me lessons.


Posted by AlertTheCity!, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm

The new operator took over a few days ago and guess what, the monetary emphasis has gone up ten fold.

Earlier the office was closed by 6 pm Mon and Fri and by 4 pm on weekends (other days it closed at 8 pm). After those hours the players could walk into the free courts and play whereas now, with the office open until 9 pm all weekdays and 6 pm weekends, we are required to register at the desk and pay as well (for the courts, for the lights, etc.). Less hours for free play, more hours for pay-to-play, more days for pay-to-play...and that means with extended hours, less walk-in-and-play, etc. the regulars are seeing a drift toward the Cupertino and Sunnyvale "let's make a profit even if it drives away players" model.

Is the city council aware of that?


Posted by Tim Hoctor, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Oh Boy, this brings back memories. Sitting here in my 'new' home town of Princeton NJ, I surely regret the in-fighting happening at Cuesta. I have known both Tim Foley, as well as John Sevely, for going on 30 years. I remember Dana Gill and Nick Fustar as 10 year old's when I was coaching juniors. I grew up in Mountain View, and feel that Mountain View had the best public tennis facilities of any city in the country (actually, in the world), bar none (and I have been to many, many cities). I can remember taking lessons at Rengstorff Park, and watching Roscoe Tanner win the M.V. Open. There is no problem with the park getting some new blood running the program, though I am saddened to see John not running it. The Hashimoto's did an adequate job for many years, though they were always clearly financially oriented. And even back when I was a kid, I always found it annoying that the same 100 people always managed to get a court while the rest of us waited (probably the same 100 people as today, though they must be moving pretty slowly by now..)

Cuesta and Rengstorff are community gems. Believe me when I tell you, there is nothing like them anywhere else. Charging premiums at all hours to play is a shame. The city makes plenty of tax dollars off of the numerous technology companies, and the ability to play at no charge, even in off hours, should be a privilege of living in Mountain View.


Posted by Wesley Gee, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I like Tim Foley as a person and wish him the best in his new venture. However, the Cuesta Park needs to be managed in a more organized way. It's true, the same 100 people used to hog the court at all times, especially in the evenings after work and during the weekend prime hours. Financial incentives or deterrents need to be in place at prime hours, between 6-9pm weekdays and Saturday, and 8-12 pm during Saturday and Sunday. Other than that, people should be able to walk in for very cheaply or free.


Posted by Olivia, a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm

If the courts are so over crowded then the city needs to build more courts or charge a nominal usage fee.

I would run the facility like this: Membership $150 yr adults , $50 children, $2 per hr per person. City should be responsible for all costs to maintain facility, and operator runs the programs. City charges the operator $3k a month rent.


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