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Donations pile up for John Jay tennis courts

This United States Tennis Association rendering of proposed tennis courts at John Jay High School shows six new courts that would be built where the old grass softball field is currently located next to the entrance to John Jay Middle School, the baseball field and the student parking lot.

A drive to build a six-court, lighted tennis facility on the campus of John Jay High School is picking up steam — and more importantly — donations.

About $200,000 had already been raised or pledged for the project.

“We’re on our way,” commented Robert Labriola, who is spearheading the effort. “It’s a pretty exciting project.”

Mr. Labriola hopes to raise the estimated $375,000 needed for the project by May, with construction commencing next summer and the courts ready for play by next fall.

Mr. Labriola is head coach of the John Jay boys tennis team, which practices and plays its home matches at Fox Valley Park in Goldens Bridge. He feels having a facility on the campus would make the team (and the girls team) more a part of the John Jay sports scene, and allow them to play home matches in front of an actual home crowd.

“This will put our athletes front and center,” he said, and provide “a place where people will get to watch these outstanding athletes play.”

The new courts would have seating areas for spectators.

Mr. Labriola said the courts would also help promote tennis in the community. They would be open to players and teams in the community of all ages, and by the schools for physical education classes.

“It’s going to affect so many more people than just [high school] athletes,” he said.

“It will have a major impact on our whole community, and take our campus to the next level,” said Chris McCarthy, Director of Health, Athletics, Physical Education and Wellness at John Jay. “If the funds can be raised, we’ll have a state-of-the-art, six-court facility.”

Mr. McCarthy said the benefits of having the courts on the campus were wide-ranging — extending beyond the high school to middle school physical education, after-school programs for elementary school children, and programs for the community at large.

He said it would bring the community together, and make the John Jay campus a center for community activities.

“We’re excited,” he said of the project.

John Jay girls tennis coach Mike Racanelli was also enthusiastic about the possibility of courts on the John Jay campus — and how it would have a positive impact on the tennis program. The girls team also plays its matches at Fox Valley.

“It would mean everything to the girls. It’s really about a sense of inclusion,” he said, noting that some students right now don’t even know John Jay has a tennis team.

The new tennis courts would be an addition to those at Fox Valley Park, Onatru Park and the Town Park. Tennis courts at Fox Valley and the Town Park underwent repairs earlier this year.

The project has received the full support of the United State Tennis Association, through its Community Tennis Development program that seeks to promote and develop the growth of tennis. The USTA provides technical services to offset design, engineering and other “soft costs,” said Mr. Labriola, in addition to providing tools for communities seeking to build courts, and providing funding.

The project also has the support of the John Jay Boosters Club, which has committed $50,000 and provided a link for donations on its website — johnjayboosters.org.

Another $50,000 has been pledged by Adam R. Rose and Peter R. McQuillan, who donated the property for the AP Farm Athletic Fields.

Funds have also been pledged by several area tennis clubs: Saw Mill Club, Chestnut Ridge Racquet Club, Armonk Tennis/Armonk Indoor, and Hardscrabble Club.

At the moment, three potential sites have been located for the courts. The USTA is still studying the topography to determine the best location. The prime spot would be the former varsity softball field, located between the school parking lots and the entrance to John Jay Middle School.

Residents who want to make a donation to the project may visit johnjayboosters.org and click the tab for Tennis Courts. Checks may also be mailed to Robert Labriola, P.O. Box 237, Waccabuc NY 10597.

Donations will be returned if the project isn’t completed within 24 months, Mr. Labriola said.

For more information, contact Mr. Labriola at roblab429@gmail.com.

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