On Sept. 28, two tennis professionals were fired from the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs by concessionaires Jim and Stacy Swiggart. In protest, Carol Baily refused her contract at the center. To say the tennis community was shocked and appalled when they heard of the dismissal of Don Toy and John Aragon would be an understatement. Don has lived in Steamboat for 38 years, taught tennis for 20 years and co-founded the high school’s tennis programs. John has lived in Steamboat for 17 years and developed the Junior Academy program. Coach Aragon and coach Toy have coached the girls high school team to nine consecutive regional titles and the boys team to 14 consecutive regional titles. We have had two state champions, numerous state medalists and have experienced as much success as any high school sport in Steamboat.
We also now have lost Carol Baily, an inductee of the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame and a national champion. Coach Aragon was awarded the 2006 Colorado Coach of the Year by the state’s Colorado High School Activities Association and was a nominee for 2012 Steamboat Springs High School Coach of the Year.
For the past 12 months, the Swiggarts called upon the tennis community to help them renew their contract with the city for an additional three years. They solicited community members to write letters in support of their renewal, and within three days of being awarded the renewal last week, they released Aragon and Toy. As such, Aragon and Toy were not given the same opportunity to sunset their careers on their own timeline as had been granted to the Swiggarts.
We find it doubtful that any of these supporters had any idea of the Swiggarts’ plan to terminate Aragon and Toy. We would suggest that if these supporters knew of these intentions, they would not have supported them and would have worked to see a different concessionaire at the Tennis Center. The tennis community is feeling betrayed as well as deceived. With 24-hour notice, approximately 70 community members attended Tuesday’s City Council budget retreat to air their concerns. The council was clear that it could not intervene in any personnel issues. However, council members expressed serious concerns for requested capital improvement dollars at the Tennis Center because of the outcry of disservice and the ramifications of such. The council deferred the Tennis Center maintenance items to a later date.
Many will boycott the Tennis Center until there is an amicable resolution and the three pros are allowed to teach lessons again. This week, Jim Swiggart told the Steamboat Today that he would not comment on Toy’s firing, which causes one to wonder why he would comment on Aragon but not Toy. Swiggart said that Aragon was fired because the Junior Academy numbers had declined. When did the marketing and promotion responsibilities of the tennis concessionaire, the person awarded to “operate the business,” become the responsibility of the teaching pros to recruit new students? What marketing have you seen done by the Tennis Center? What events? What tournaments? And don’t mistake the ads and events paid for and promoted by the Steamboat Tennis Association. The taxpayers should continue to have high expectations of a recreation revenue stream that would benefit lodging, restaurants and income for the city of Steamboat Springs.
Clearly, the community cannot fight this battle alone. Our goal is simple: We ask for the city to help mediate a situation whereby these tennis professionals can continue teaching and coaching tennis.
Steve Lowrie and Tom Valicenti