- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - It’s never too early to start working on an event that could bring your city potentially millions of dollars.

That’s the mindset the City of Stillwater leaders had when they said they would help accommodate an NCAA Tennis Championship if Oklahoma State were to earn a bid. When the NCAA announced April 18 that OSU and Stillwater were to host such an event, the city had already started preparing.

The Michael and Anne Greenwood Center, the home of OSU men’s and women’s tennis, is a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2014. The NCAA requires the host site to have 16 practice courts as well that are up to code.

When the Championships were held in Tulsa in 2016, teams used courts in the surrounding neighborhoods. Chris Young, OSU’s Director of Tennis as well as the Cowgirls’ coach, said he plans to do the same.

For eight of the courts, he plans to use the Colvin Recreational Courts on OSU’s campus and the former home of the tennis teams. Those courts will undergo some patching repairs between now and then, according to the university.

The other eight practice courts required will be divvied up between two city parks in Couch Park and Sunset Park.

Renovations at Couch Park were in progress before OSU even got the bid. John McClenney, special projects manager for the City of Stillwater, said Stillwater was planning on renovating Couch Park regardless of whether OSU received the bid.

“Couch is in the process of being rebuilt almost from scratch so it should be good to go,” McClenney told the Stillwater News Press (https://bit.ly/2r8zyZP ). “Couch was going to be renovated anyway because the courts were falling apart and needed to be redone no matter what.”

The current plans for Couch Park on the City of Stillwater website say the refurbishing of the courts is almost done. The courts were shut down on Jan. 13 and when McClenney said the courts were being rebuilt almost all from scratch, he wasn’t exaggerating. The new courts have new fences, gates, net posts, nets, benches, a windscreen, sidewalks and refurbished surfaces built by Australian Court Works.

The expected day for the ribbon-cutting ceremony is June 5. The plan for the courts was budgeted at $400,000 and McClenney said the costs were running in that neighborhood.

As for the courts at Sunset Park, located alongside Washington Street near Sprouts, it will be more of a wait-and-see approach. While Couch Park was going to be redone no matter what, Sunset depended on the bid proposal, and then, on if the courts will even be needed.

Because the NCAA is changing its tournament format in 2019, its requirements for practice courts might change. Currently, the NCAA requires 16 practice courts because there will be 16 schools, for both the men’s and women’s tournaments, at the Championships from May 14-23, 2020.

However, with the new format coming soon, there will only be eight schools. Currently, there are 16 Regional sites that host the first two rounds with the Sweet Sixteen and after being held at the Championship site. The new format will be like baseball and softball, with 16 Regional Sites and eight Super Regional sites, with only eight schools going to the Championship site.

This revelation could go into deciding if the four courts at Sunset Park need to be renovated. If there are fewer schools, then the NCAA might not require them, but if it does, then McClenney said Young will have to talk to OSU about a potential grant because the city lacks the funds for that type of project.

“We’re definitely willing to do whatever we can do to help Chris with this,” McClenney said. “We just don’t have much spare money.”

Sunset will be patched up by the time 2020 rolls around, McClenney said, but if the NCAA will not need them for practice courts, that is about all the city has planned for them at the moment.

The championships brought Tulsa an estimated $6 million in revenue in 2016. McClenney and Young hope it will do the same for Stillwater, which is partly the reason they are trying to make sure everything is perfect for when the event comes around.

“The time of year that it’s going to be, right after graduation in those two to three weeks when there’s not much going on and summer school hasn’t started yet,” Young said. “That’s the time of year we need the most influx of an event like this.”

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Information from: Stillwater News Press, https://www.stwnewspress.com

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