Private lease for Sargent Park Tennis Courts operation not renewed, 24-hour use enabled

One city councillor says operators of city-owned recreation facilities don’t need to be concerned after the Property and Development committee chose not to renew the lease for the Sargent Park Tennis Courts, which for the last decade have been operated by George Kylar, a major figure in Manitoba’s tennis community.

Kylar has managed and maintained the six courts near the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex for the last decade, and told Global News his goal was always about providing balance for tennis players in the city.

“We wanted to make sure that there’s the right balance of public coming here and playing without any pressure. Versus something offered for other people, ‘You want to play in a tournament, you want to be in a clinic,” Kylar said.

Kylar said he did what he could to make the courts as accessible as possible, asking people who wanted to use the courts to pay a fee of $10, with a cap of $150, meaning after you played ten times, you played for free. Also, he said, anyone under the age of 18 could access the courts for free.

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But a community group led by Jerry Laforteza didn’t agree with Kylar about the courts being accessible all the time, telling Global News some community members worked night shifts, and would want to access the courts early in the morning, but found they couldn’t as the gates would be locked.

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This prompted Laforteza’s group to petition the City, where it was decided Kylar’s lease would not be renewed, and to the courts will be open to the public 24 hours a day.

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The motion was passed unanimously, but Winnipeg city councillor Evan Duncan who sits on Property and Development, and chairs the Community Services committee says he understands Kylar’s concern when it comes to the ongoing maintenance of the courts. But he stressed the city needs to listen to all constituents.

“The ten years of work (Kylar) did, they were exceptional, no question about it,” Duncan explained. “But at the end of the day the community wanted full access to it. There is a group that is an association within that community that’s willing to take it on and be the stewards in an unofficial capacity.”

Duncan did offer assurances for other operators saying this situation is unique and the city is not looking to take over other privately managed recreation facilities.

“I would say right now, that our other third party operators, especially when there’s established infrastructure there, that the City of Winnipeg is not looking to get back into that business.”

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But if the overall condition and maintenance of the Sargent Park aren’t properly maintained Duncan says the city can always reevaluate.

“This is something that can always be reviewed right? We can always look at any piece of property within the City of Winnipeg and see if there’s a fit down the road for some other group to come in.”

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