Nov. 13, 2013: For the first time in 40 years, to the surprise and confusion of paddle tennis players in Bronxville, there was no Super Scrambles to kick off the new paddle tennis season.
"We don't know what's going on, and it's sad," said avid player Allison Devlin. "It's really disheartening. Paddle tennis has been, quite literally, my social life for seven months of the year."
All five members of the long-standing volunteer paddle tennis committee resigned after its president, Kevin Dillon, received a letter from the village expressing concern over revenues generated by the program, the proper monitoring of permits, and the low number of village residents who use the courts. The letter also called for trustee approval of the roster of committee members.
Committee members felt the letter took an unnecessarily accusatory tone. According to Dillon, the letter faulted the committee for causing the concerns raised.
Trustee Guy Longobardo stated that he and Mayor Mary Marvin asked the paddle tennis committee members to continue to serve but believes there was dissatisfaction among the members after they requested a committee roster to approve.
Longobardo explained that, since the paddle tennis facility is a village asset, officials are accountable to the state for identifying individuals who allocate the courts and hold tournaments there.
"The letter came out of the blue," said Lynn Joyce, a 40-year member of the committee, which has organized and run the paddle tennis program at the village's four courts on Paxton Street. "People don’t even know what happened. That's the sad part."
Dillon stated that, if village officials had verbalized their concerns about the program and explained that the roster of approved members represented a matter of compliance with New York State law, the committee would have been happy to comply. He also said that committee members were willing to correct any issues village officials had with their operation of the courts.
Joyce said that members made nightly trips to the courts over several weeks when notified that a significant percentage of players in a Tuesday evening league did not have proper permits. They monitored permits and either collected fees or denied access to players who did not comply.
"Never once was working together to solve the problems brought out," Dillon noted. He added that, when he asked officials about the village's vision for the paddle tennis courts, they didn't seem to have one.
Longobardo pointed out that the village's paddle tennis program has consistently lost money over the past five years, if not longer. The losses have ranged from $8,000 to a $15,000 loss in 2009-2010.
"The village, because we're already subsidizing court usage because of the losses, wants to increase resident usage of the facility," Longobardo said. He estimated that twice as many non-residents as residents use the facility. The village has changed the fee structure to encourage more residents to join. Under the new structure, a resident family can join for $150 per year, as opposed to the former rate of $200. A non-resident family will pay $300 annually, as opposed to the former rate of $225.
Longobardo acknowledged that, once the committee was made aware of the delinquent permits, its members did a "great job" in collecting permit fees from those players.
"Ideally, we’d like to see resident usage increase," Longobardo said. "If we have a facility that's not being used by many residents, should the village continue to subsidize it the way it does now?"
At its November 4 meeting, the board of trustees approved a resolution to hire Mike Virgilio, tennis pro, as a private contractor to supervise the paddle tennis courts. His duties will include monitoring players for valid permits, monitoring the facility itself, and organizing tournaments and scrambles.
Longobardo reported that Bill Moss and Sloane Finn, who will be named to a new paddle tennis committee, are working on holding tournaments. He added that the new committee is open to volunteers.
"We always strived for growing and building a community-based program," Dillon said about his defunct committee. "We had that. We had the traction."
Pictured here: Paddle players during a previous Super Scrambles tournament.
Photo by A. Warner