By John Ring

One of the bright spots in spring athletics for the Silver Streaks is the boys tennis team under Coach Gary Wagher.

Wagher’s Streaks return the nucleus of a team that was more than competitive last year. They got off to a strong start, winning several duel meets and finished second in the Rock Island Invitational just a few days ago. Galesburg was even going to host the Western Big 6 conference championships this year.

But the key word in that sentence is was.

The Streaks can’t host it because their tennis courts are in such bad shape.

The ten-court tennis complex at GHS, which sits just east of VanDyke Field, is in such deplorable condition that Athletic Director Mike Robson and Wagher mutually agreed to ask that the Big 6 move the event to Moline this year.

Asked if the Streaks home courts are the worst tennis courts in the Western Big 6, Wagher didn’t hesitate with a one-word answer – "Yes."

The problems are significant – and expensive to repair.

First are the courts themselves. They were built over 30 years ago on a surface largely regarded even back then as a swamp. All of the courts are full of cracks and in many areas, the court surface has virtually sunk several inches.

"You can see where it’s sunk in places," said Wagher. "It’s just not a true surface any more. Bounces are inconsistent and worse, a player can easily get hurt."

"Our courts are not in great shape this spring," admitted Robson. "Winters are usually tough on our courts and this year was no exception. Our main problem is the cracks. Our maintenance department has done the best they can do with the resources available."

The cracks that Robson mentioned are too numerous to even count – even more so than on the road to Blackburn Lancashire in England. ("They had to count them all" wrote John Lennon in "A Day in the Life")

Another obstacle are the light poles that line the courts. For reasons nobody can explain, they are installed in the field of play. Many players have struck them over the years and they present a severe safety hazard. "We’ve had many players hit them and one even broke a collarbone," said Wagher.

The school district is already soliciting bids for what best can be conceived only as a short term solution. "The courts will be power washed and the cracks will be filled with material," said Wagher. "The low spots will also be filled. Pads will be placed around the power poles. But even with that, it could run over $3,000 a court."

District 205 Maintenance Director Roger Robisnon is hoping for the same success they had with the refurbished GHS track.

"We have some bids out right now for companies using a new material called ‘plexipav’ that has had good reviews wherever it’s been used," said Robinson. "What we’ll do is take the old surface completely off, down to the original blacktop which is still in good shape. The plexipav fills the cracks up and doesn’t rip at all. It gives a good seal and has worked when it’s been used in situations just as this."

"The track project went very well and the coaches there are very pleased," said Robinson. "I hope we have the same kind of success with tennis."

Both Wagher and Robinson are hoping this temporary fix lasts for a while – the goal is five years – because building new courts are even more expensive.

"What we’re going to do will help but it isn’t the solution. The solution we need is something we can’t afford," said Wagher.

"Moving the poles is real costly," said Robinson, who said it would cost close to $200,000 if it was done for all ten tennis courts. Building new courts at the GHS complex could be even more expensive.

Soangetaha Country Club recently refurbished three tennis courts at a cost of $35,000.

For this season, Wagher said that of the four home meets Galesburg hosts this year, only one will be moved. "We’re going to move our Invitational to Knox College. Because of quirks in the schedule, we only have four home meets this year. We’ll have more next season."

The Streaks – if everything goes right – hope to host the Western Big 6 tournament in 2005.