Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs bringing back pros

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Jim Swiggart

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John Aragon

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Don Toy

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Carol Baily

Reader poll

Do you support the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs concessionaire Jim Swiggart's decision to nonrenew the contracts of tennis pros John Aragon and Don Toy?

  • Yes, junior academy participation had been declining. 28%
  • No, it was not the right move. 59%
  • I'm not familiar with the situation. 13%

468 total votes.

— Less than two weeks after not renewing the contracts of two tennis pros, and having one step down in a show of support, the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs has agreed to new contracts with all three pros.

The public outcry from some Tennis Center supporters was loud and swift after veteran pros John Aragon and Don Toy were not offered new contracts by Tennis Center concessionaire Jim Swiggart. Fellow longtime pro Carol Baily stepped down in a show of solidarity with Aragon and Toy.

On Tuesday, Swiggart reversed course and came to terms on agreements for new contracts with all three of them.

“We’re going to have to work” on the relationship, Aragon said Tuesday. “Both parties have to find a way to communicate to make the Tennis Center a better place for people to come in and play. I know we’re all willing to do that.”

On Sept. 28 Swiggart cited a 34 percent decrease in the Tennis Center’s Junior Academy participation as the reason for Aragon’s non-renewal. Toy said he was told by Swiggart that his contract wasn't renewed because of his and Swiggart's rocky relationship.

But after a strong showing of support from the tennis community, the three tennis pros were welcomed back with new contracts Tuesday, putting an end to a bizarre 10 days at the city-owned facility. Many Tennis Center regulars had threatened not to support the facility until Toy and Aragon returned, and a contingent of them attended the Steamboat Springs City Council’s recent budget retreat to speak in support of the pros.

“It’s great to hear some public support on what we do,” Toy said. “It was great to hear from our former kids that play in college or don’t. It was great to hear what an impact we’ve had on them. It changed because people supported us.”

Swiggart said Oct. 3 that he hadn’t closed the door on the possibility of the three returning. Along with the help of Henry Laughlin, Bill Krueger, Janne Siegel and Pattie Asbury, a discussion helped facilitate the negotiations.

“I never said there was no chance for them to come back,” Swiggart said Tuesday afternoon. “I always thought there was a chance we could reconcile our differences. The way it came about was a powerful collaboration between three community members. Henry Laughlin started talking to me the day after I didn’t renew their contracts.”

Aragon, Toy and Baily will all be independent contractors, welcome to teach whomever they want at the Tennis Center.

Swiggart, along with a new pro set to arrive in the middle of November, will assume responsibility of the junior program. Swiggart has said he plans to wait until the new pro arrives to fill out a junior schedule, but he said they plan to add junior leagues and more weekend events.

Partially in response to the tiff, City Council voted to delay the first $68,000 of a $250,000 project to resurface the center’s clay courts. The council agreed to help with $35,000 to help repair the fabric and replace lights.

City Council member Cari Hermacinski said the rehiring of the three pros won’t change her stance on that budget decision.

She said Chris Wilson, the director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, told the council there are some repairs that need to be done at the center, and the council asked him to come back with an estimated cost.

“He’ll bring us back that number and we’ll most likely help with that, but that number probably won’t be the full $68,000,” she said.

Although some anger about the contract situation might remain, the parties agreed Tuesday that the new deals were an appropriate way to move forward with a focus on the future of tennis in Steamboat Springs.

“As far as I’m concerned we’re burying the past,” Aragon said. “We’ll all try and move forward. This is a great place we live. We’re in a position where we have to do the right thing — and that’s whatever is best for the youth and the adults.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Jody Anagnos 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm really happy to hear that John and Don had their contracts renewed. I am a lifetime tennis player and only played at the Tennis Center briefly because I felt very unwelcome there. I can only describe it as I felt like and was treated like an outsider at a private club. Not cool for a public facility. Having said that, John and Don were not only extremely welcoming and friendly but their clinics were really great. I was baffled when I read the first article about this that the two best and friendliest people at the center wouldn't be there anymore. I would recommend for the city to look into other reasons why business might be lacking at that center, mainly the unwelcoming feeling and private club feel at a public facility. It certainly turned me off and I told the city that after my last visit there.

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