By Robbie Owens

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was a social media ‘drop shot’ of sorts: a Facebook post intended to bring Dallas’ tennis community to the net.

“The saying, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’,” says Duey Evans, “we wanted the tennis community to be heard and to say: this is vital to us! You might save a couple of dollars, but look someplace else.”

Evans posted the appeal asking tennis fans to reach out to their city council members saying making tennis accessible for all, benefits all. “If you go to the places where it costs a lot of money, all you’re going to run into are people who can afford to spend a lot of money. Put it in a place like this and people get exposed to people who aren’t like them, which makes it a lot easier to deal with a lot of things in this world.”

Evans’ company manages the Samuell Grand Tennis Center through a contract with the city. It is one of five in Dallas that he fears could close if the city’s budget ax falls on Park and Recreation department spending. He says his concern is not saving his job—he declined to submit a bid to renew the contract—but, insists that cutting services that improve physical and mental health is short sighted.

“All our kids are on their iPads and their phones,” says Keely Smith, who was playing at the tennis center Tuesday. “We’re worried about their nutritional health, so I think it’s devastating to our youth to take away anything that could afford them an activity, a way to be more healthy.”

So Evans is asking the tennis community to make some noise.

“I’ve made a phone call,” says Lee-Ann Graham, who admits that the response she received was less than reassuring. “Just a thank you for calling in.”
In a statement, Willis Winters, Director of the Park and Recreation department offered the following explanation: “We were mandated to prepare a 5 percent budget cut… Of the 15 budget reductions offered to the Park Board last week (which also included reduced rec center hours and mowing cycles), golf and tennis were staff’s (and the Board’s) lowest priorities for cuts. We are very hopeful that reductions in these services will not move forward.”

Winters in the statement went on to assure community members that the budget process was just beginning and that the public would have an opportunity to weigh in on any proposed cuts. Still, many tennis fans remain concerned.

“It’s a huge asset for the city,” says Kristen Moran, “so taking it away would be a terrible thing to do.”

Still, whether it is tennis, after school programs, or streets and infrastructure, the cash has to come from somewhere. And the Dallas Police and Fire pension crisis has yet to be resolved. Better buckle in– city hall sources say the upcoming budget cycle will likely be brutal.

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