The proponents of the 84-court complex to be located on Berry College-owned property between Mount Berry Square mall and the new Armuchee connector have sought $7.5 million in bond funding from the state to jump start the $18.7 million project for the past four years, however, the project being hailed as an economic development driver for the entire Northwest Georgia region has been shut out of limited state bond packages each year.
State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said it is the same message that has been stated all along.
“The bonds are clearly going, (but) if you look at the package, it is not this type of project,” Dempsey said. “There are ongoing meetings with the governor taking place. I do think there are great opportunities happening right now about it.”
The bond package in the governor’s budget includes $25.2 million for water supply projects, $15 million in bond sales for Georgia World Congress Center upgrades and $26.5 million for state parks and lands improvements.
Dempsey said the example of what is taking place at the Lakepoint Sporting Community and Town Center project in Bartow County, and how they have moved forward, have been a part of the discussion. Lakepoint investors attracted private capital for their youth sports, retail, medical and residential and also won bond support from the Cartersville-Bartow County Development Authority.
Thus far supporters of the Tennis Center of Georgia have not announced any private support for the project during the past four years and have not gone to either the Development Authority of Floyd County or the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority for locally back bond support.
The Berry College donation of property, nearly 30 acres, along with in-kind aid from Rome and Floyd County work crews, would have accounted for $5.6 million of the budget.
“We have to think about how to positively frame the importance of expediency with this project and how as a community we have come together before and use our own resources to make things happen,” Dempsey said. “It doesn’t mean that next year it might be possibly in the governor’s budget vision. But it is not at this time.”
The original 2009 economic impact summary for the tennis center, performed by Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, estimated that the recurring annual economic impact for what was originally a 74-court center was between $16.1 million and $28.1 million.
Scott Bentley, one of the leaders of the Coosa Valley Tennis Association and a leading proponent of the Tennis Center of Georgia, said the tennis project would be a long-term investment for the state and would bring revenue into Georgia for many years.
Bentley said he believes state leadership — including Gov. Nathan Deal — does have an understanding of the economic development aspect of the Tennis Center.
“I believe they’ve been poised for the right time for it,” Bentley said.
Lisa Smith, director of the greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she really thought the project would be further along at this point.
“I think we have lost some momentum,” Smith said.