Game. Set. Match.
● By Robert Frey
Improvements Made To Local Tennis CourtsBy Patrice Doucet
When New Iberia resident Angela Cestia heard late last year that there was a new tennis coach working with players on the New Iberia Catholic High team and teaching private lessons part-time as well, she wanted her daughter to learn to play what she saw as a dying sport. But, as a board member of Iberia Parish Foundation and involved in city development, she was well aware of the aging, cracked courts at City Park, with their damaged wind nets and inadequate spotlights.
However, the need overshadowed the obstacles. With an established city women’s league, a community desire for more private lessons, and New Iberia Catholic High adding a middle school tennis team to their JV and varsity teams, there would be more demand than ever for the courts.
Cestia heard her inner voice: “Don’t complain. Contribute!” and so she and friend Jessica Ditch, also active with the city, met with city officials to find funding while obtaining estimates on redoing the courts.
“My passion is the improve the quality of the lives of children and adults in Iberia Parish. I do this through the enhancement of outdoor play for children and adults; and tennis is a family activity,” says Ditch.
Their enthusiasm was met by the full support of Mayor Freddie DeCourt and, in turn, the city agreed to pay for new lights, wind nets, fencing around the courts and a hitting board. The Parks and Recreation Foundation will fund the resurfacing of the five courts using some proceeds from the annual Dragon Boat Races, held in New Iberia, along with $15,000 in donations received from businesses and community members who participated in the Giving Day sponsored by Community Foundation of Acadiana.
Resurfacing of the hart court surfaces will begin in late August and is estimated to take two and a half weeks.
“We’re thrilled to get the tennis courts back in shape and we encourage our citizens to use them,” promotes Mayor DeCourt. “This project is another example of a great community partnership and it helps our tax dollars go further while serving our community.”
Other updates in City Park include renovations to the old fire station that are projected to be complete by the end of August. The station is used for the city’s yoga classes and rented as a venue for small events.
Heather Dominique, Director of New Iberia Parks and Recreation Department says she believes that the community really counts on her department to provide some quality of life. “We do that when we can provide different activities in the park,” she says.
That said, Dominique shares enhancements at other parks including repair work on the basketball pavilion at the West End Park currently underway. Visitors will also appreciate new lighting and updated electrical work. Plans are in the works to eventually resurface the West End tennis courts and replace those spotlights.
Significant upgrades are also being made to West End Park’s Teen Center: changing the air conditioning. making roof and ceiling repairs, adding a stove and meeting room – all to be finished near the end of August.
Providing disabled and special needs children with the opportunities for play like their peers is important. A recent fundraiser will provide money for wheelchair accessible swings for children and adults at several of the city’s parks within the year. Persons using a wheelchair will be able to back into the swing and strap in safely.
Just in time to cure summertime doldrums, the city reopened The Bayou Wheels Skate Park on July 13, after being closed for three years. Skateboarders and inline skaters should be excited about the completely refurbished equipment, including ground-secured ramps and grinding rails. Located within City Park near the Louisiana Sugarcane Building, the skate park is open dawn to dusk and is unsupervised. “We’re happy to once again have a venue for skateboarders that is in the park instead of on the sidewalks,” says Dominique.
New Iberia Police Chief Todd D’Albor echoes the sentiment, saying, “I believe that the skateboard park allows people who enjoy skateboarding to have a location to do this. It moves the activity out of areas that create problems for merchants and patrons and is a win/win situation.”
A Penn State Survey reported that park renovations cause visitors to return more frequently and stay longer, and that their enjoyment increases. In addition to increasing park use, the survey says, park renovations can have dramatic effects on increasing physical activity levels among park users and improve perceptions of park safety.
Having worked for Parks and Recreation in her younger years as a lifeguard and safety instructor, Cestia knows what parks bring to families. “I feel like having a Parks and Recreation Department is important. The more activities like that to offer people, the more attractive the city looks. I want New Iberia to thrive and grow and for that to happen you have to provide things that people want.”