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SFSU’s $5M plan to replace tennis courts with youth Giants academy on hold

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A plan to replace the tennis courts at San Francisco State University with a baseball academy has been put on hold. (Joel Angel Juárez/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A $5 million proposal to replace the tennis courts at San Francisco State University with an urban youth baseball academy has been put on hold, saving one of the few large public places to play tennis in The City from demolition.

A spokesperson for the university told the San Francisco Examiner last week that SFSU and the San Francisco Giants Community fund are looking for a new site to build the Junior Giants Urban Youth Academy.

“After extensive planning and review, it was determined that the proposed site on the campus was not feasible,” SFSU spokesperson Jonathan Morales said in an email. “The Giants Community Fund and S.F. State have agreed to continue their partnership and to look for new locations in the region.”

The project took a step backward after the partnership between the public university and Giants Community Fund to build the baseball academy went before the California State University’s governing board for conceptual approval this spring.

The academy would give underserved youths a chance to play baseball at SFSU and connect with the campus community. The proposal called for a baseball field, batting cages and new infrastructure to be built at the expense of the Giants atop the site where the tennis courts currently sit off Lake Merced Boulevard.

Giants spokesperson Stacie Slaughter also confirmed that the project was “on hold.”

“We’re still working with S.F. State, we’re just doing a bunch of analysis in terms of what’s the best approach for the project,” Slaughter said.

When President Barack Obama announced the public-private partnership at the White House in June 2015, there was no mention of the 14 tennis courts, gay and lesbian tennis league or tennis training academy that hung in the balance.

The tennis community has taken hits throughout San Francisco as of late. South of Market’s Bay Club San Francisco was almost removed but survived the planned redevelopment at the site, while SFSU recently removed several courts on its south side in favor of a new recreation center.

Besides SFSU, Golden Gate Park is the only other place in San Francisco with more than four public access courts, according to Jesse Inghelram, who has played tennis in The City since he was a kid and now operates Tenacious Tennis Academy for youths and sometimes adults at the university’s courts.

“It’s a great project. It’s just a shame that it’s cannibalizing other opportunities for youth,” Inghelram said before learning that the university no longer plans to redevelop the courts (though he had previously heard a rumor to the same tune).

Inghelram serves between 500 and 700 families a year on the SFSU courts and has ambitions to turn his business into a nonprofit for underserved youths and also adults. In March, he and other tennis groups that use the courts negotiated with the university to try and reach a compromise.

“They offered us the same opportunity to partner with them but it would require that we would raise money too,” Inghelram said, noting that administrators bargained in good faith.

The girls tennis team at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Federation also use the courts.

Peg Stevenson, who sits on the GLTF board, said SFSU is home to the federation’s more than 40 teams a year.

“Our league is big and there’s no place else for us to go,” Stevenson said.

Inghelram, who has played at SFSU since he was a student at Lowell High School, called the space “a mecca for tennis players in The City.”

Tucked inside a valley with hardly any wind, the courts are “a little bit of a hidden gem,” he said.

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