The tennis courts at Hempstead Lake State Park have been in disrepair for many years, according to Central Nassau County Rotary Club President Rony Kessler. The courts’ surfaces are cracked, and some are missing nets.
“At one point, they were going to hold a [U.S. Tennis Association] event there and they were going to redo the whole place and put up a temporary stand,” Kessler, of Franklin Square, recalled. “But then it fell through and ended up being held at another location.”
Kessler said that he and his friends played on the courts for years, but they got fed up eventually and went elsewhere. But because some of the tennis centers in other communities, such as Rockville Centre and East Meadow, have closed, Kessler said it is now difficult to find a place to play.
He received some encouraging words, however, in response to a recent email he sent to George Gorman, regional director of the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “I am sorry this has taken us too long to refurbish these courts, but they are a priority now,” Gorman wrote.
The state began refurbishing four of the all-weather courts in October, and officials plan to complete the project by the year’s end. In addition, four more all-weather courts will be repaired. Of those, two will be redeveloped into six pickleball courts. Gorman also told Kessler that the state plans to update every court at the park within the next three years.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said that constituents have expressed their frustration with the courts to his office in recent years. Last year he wrote a letter to the state urging it to provide funds for renovations. In the 2019 budget, the state approved $300,000 for repairs at the park. Kaminsky credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Gorman for their response.
“To get the new hard courts done and to get the pickleball done is such a tremendous win for the community,” Kaminsky said. “Any time you need an infrastructure improvement, it’s very difficult to do with all the bureaucracy, so this happening so quickly is very rewarding.”
State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, had also brought the situation to Kaminsky’s attention. “It’s great to see the state respond to an issue and get it ready for people,” Griffin said. “Residents appreciate getting something that improves their lifestyle.”
Griffin added that tennis teams from schools such as South Side High School, in Rockville Centre, once played on the park’s courts, but were forced to go elsewhere because of the damage. “There’s so much to do here at this park,” she said, “but we’re excited to see South Side and other schools return here next year.”
Kessler said he believed that tennis’s lack of popularity with today’s youth could be the reason why it took years for the park’s courts to be addressed. He said that in recent years, he and his friends were often the only people using the courts.
“Tennis has sort of become a forgotten sport in the community,” he said. “There’s very few young people playing these days. But once the courts get repaired, it could spark interest in the game.”