By DON STINE
An eight-court tennis center will be built on W. Park Avenue in Ocean Township under what Mayor Christopher Siciliano said is “an historic partnership” between a private company and the township.
“This is a win-win situation for the township and an historic event in that it is the first time private and public entities are coming together to build a facility that will be useful to residents,” he said.
The mayor said that, after three years of negotiations, a deal was signed last week to build the $2.5 million Park Avenue Tennis Center in front of the existing township pool complex on W. Park Avenue.
The 58,000-square-foot facility, with a clock tower, will house eight indoor tennis courts and have a two-tiered pavilion where spectators can watch either indoor or outdoor matches. The existing outdoor tennis courts will remain but be moved to another adjacent location.
The center will also contain locker rooms and bathrooms and artificial turf may be able to be installed so that other sporting events can be held in the facility- the first indoor fields in the township.
The existing parking lot at the site will remain unchanged.
Siciliano said the township will receive $500,000 for each of two consecutive 10-year leases for the property plus any property taxes on the complex. The two leases are required so that the facility can comply with state Green Acres regulations.
The township will also get the deed to the building once it is built but it will continue to be operated by the Park Avenue Tennis Center corporation until the two 10-year leases are over. Then the township will operate it and be its primary user.
“The company will pay off the building, leases and taxes and then keep any profit. This will be a good revenue stream for the township,” Siciliano said.
James Sabitis, an attorney/investor who lives in Spring Lake, is the private entity behind this unique partnership.
“There are many proposed public/private ventures but few go through. This one is actually being made into a development and it’s very exciting. After we build it we get paid back on our investment while the facility supports the community. Eventually the township will own the whole thing and the leases will be done- so, after 20 years, we hand the keys over to the township,” he said.
Sabitis said his whole family is involved in tennis and that he met Siciliano a few years ago and the idea for the center developed over those several years.
“We play tennis so there is a good tennis spirit behind this,” he said.
“It’s an exciting concept, breaks new ground, and makes history in Ocean Township. There were a lot if issues but everybody pulled together and I don’t think this could have been done without the cooperation and support of township officials and staff. I think it will serve the township well,” he said.
The project now needs to go before the Planning Board and, if approved, groundbreaking for the project is expected sometime after Labor Day.