Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City Community Tennis Assoc on the Move: Will the County 5 Double Fault?  

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Yesterday's midday Tourist Development Council meeting saw the Lake City Columbia Community Tennis Association's (LCCTA) Dolly Robinson update the TDC on the Community Tennis Association's progress since its January presentation (Economic Development Chief Perseveres, Delivers Winning Tennis Presentation to TDC). Ms. Robinson told the TDC, "We were offered a $10,000 tournament in the spring. Of course, we have no tennis courts so we couldn't take it... It takes a vision. It takes somebody saying, 'This can happen.' We're willing to get behind it. Before we can go a whole lot further, we have to find a place to do this."

LCCTA President, Dolly Robinson, Addressed the TDC

Dolly Robinson (standing) makes her presentation to the TDC and County staff.

Ms. Robinson explained to the TDC, "We have done a lot of groundwork in being a viable 501(c)3. When it's time for donations and fund-raising, we are ready to go. We have met with people from the USTA (United States Tennis Association). We are all set to go. What we need is dirt."

34 year veteran County Commissioner Ronald Williams and 6 year District II Commissioner Rusty DePratter are members of the TDC. She told them, "I think it comes down to you and your vision and what you see for the growth of Columbia County."

Ms. Robinson continued, "From the feedback that we've gotten from the major organizations I think this is an opportunity. We were offered a $10,000 tournament in the spring. Of course, we have no tennis courts, so we couldn't take it."

"It takes a vision. It takes somebody saying, 'This can happen.' We're willing to get behind it. Before we can go a whole lot further, we have to find a place to do this."

Without "The Dirt" There is Nothing

Ms. Robinson emphasized, "We can apply for grants. We can apply for help to get the courts designed. We can get all that done, but not without the dirt. If you can help us find an avenue for that, we would appreciate it. We're holding on. We are trying to keep things going and looking for a place to be."

The Mystery Group

Tim Murphy, a member of the Jack Berry/Gov. Scott LSHA, has been an insider in a  Lake City land group.

34 year veteran member of The 5, Ronald Williams, explained the County's position, "From the County's standpoint we have not decided on a piece of land for expansion. I know that there is a group that's working to come up with a piece of property to recommend to the Board. We want to keep in the same area corridor so it's easy to get to the hotels and restaurants."

Commissioner Williams continued, "We know that Tim Murphy and that group is evaluating land... once Tim and that group make a recommendation back to the Board, then we will know where that piece of land is."

Asst. County Manager Ward

Scott Ward listens to Ms. Robinson's presentation.

Commissioner Williams addressed 1st Assistant County Manager Scott Ward, the County Staff's economic development point-man, "Scott, do you have anything to add to that?" (Columbia County has two 1st Assistant County Managers)

Scott Ward: No sir, not.. (the rest was unintelligible).

Ms. Robinson remained upbeat, "We'll keep doing what we're doing and try and keep the interest up. We'll look to you for direction on anything else we can do to make it work."

Commissioner Williams told Ms. Robinson, "We realize that your hands are tied."

Your reporter asked, "What group is that, that Tim Murphy is working with to bring back property to the County?"

Commissioner Williams answered, "Tim Murphy is with – what's that group?"

TDC Director Paula Vann added, "I think it's just a group of people in the community that are wanting to see that project come to fruition, so they are figuring out how to fund raise and things like that."

Your reporter followed up, "So he [Mr. Murphy] hasn't been charged? I follow the County Commission. There's no affiliation?"

Commissioner Williams responded, "No. No. It's not County approved. It's a group of private individuals that want to make a recommendation back to the board."

The Observer asked, "They're looking for what – The Field of Dreams? They're going over County property?"

Commissioner Williams: "Yes."

Observer: "Both of those things?"

Commissioner Williams: "Yes."

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) Weighs In

USTA's George English supports the LCCTA's efforts to bring tennis to Columbia County.

George English is the USTA Tennis Program Coordinator for North Central Florida.  Mr. English drove in from his Tallahassee office to demonstrate support for the Lake City Columbia Community Tennis Association and tennis in Columbia County.

Mr. English told the TDC: "I cover from Ocala to Tallahassee. We are very excited about this project. We want to do anything we can to help. Not only financial contributions, but also design and engineering plans. We've gone all over the country and this is an exciting project. We are all on board with it. You have a great group here helping out. Anything we can do to help – we want to. This would really, really be wonderful to get these tennis courts here in Lake City.

Ms. Robinson advised that 10 acres are required.

Columbia County HS Tennis on the Move

Tennis Pro Anjan Viplav, who volunteers his time with the High School tennis team, told the TDC, "It's been a fantastic year for tennis. Columbia High School has won the district championship and they are looking forward to winning the state next year."

Commissioner Williams asked if anyone had any comments.

There were none and he thanked Ms. Robinson and the tennis folks for attending the meeting.


Commissioner Williams had the last word on Columbia County tennis (as spoken): "Hopefully, we'll have a revolution on a piece of property in the very near future."

In the Land of the infamous Columbia County 5, that is what it might take.

Photo: Tennis gal double faulting, iStock by Getty Images

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