- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An 83-year-old man is set on plans to build a tennis complex in Anchorage even as nearby community councils continue to dismiss the idea.

Les Sheppard, a retired builder and longtime Anchorage tennis player, is envisioning the 14 acres of city parkland near the University of Alaska Anchorage as perfect grounds for the tennis complex, reported The Alaska Dispatch News (https://bit.ly/1Lrm67R).

“I know it’s going to be successful,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard has already paid a local engineering firm to draw up conceptual plans of the nine-court complex and has taken soil samples to determine the area suitable for the facility.

Sheppard attends Parks and Recreation commission meetings and city offices regularly, in hopes of garnering support for his idea.

Sheppard has been trying to increase support for the project since 2010, the year his wife, Kathleen, passed away. After her death, Sheppard started a nonprofit foundation in Kathleen’s honor. The foundation was meant to support teaching tennis to Anchorage youths.

But once he started searching for a facility where tennis could be taught, Sheppard said he couldn’t find one. That is when he decided to begin working on a facility of his own.

Mayor Dan Sullivan, who has met with Sheppard numerous times, said Sheppard has yet to produce a financial or business plan, which is crucial to attracting investors.

Community councils in the area have also reacted to Sheppard’s proposal with alarm. Airport Heights, Rogers Park and the University Area community councils have all generated resolutions against Sheppard’s proposal, with the Airport Heights resolution saying residents “purchased their properties to be next to parkland, not to have a huge tennis building and parking lot in their backyard.”

Sheppard said he doesn’t think that council members have given him a chance. Sheppard said he plans to go to the Anchorage Assembly after incoming Mayor Ethan Berkowitz takes office.

He said he believes there is a “good chance” he will find support.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com

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