Photo by: Ingo Joseph | pexels.com

By Erica R. Williams

After some controversy, Memphis City Council members approved a resolution appropriating $3 million of the $19 million needed for the expansion of the Leftwich Tennis Center at the University of Memphis. It’s a move that left one councilman questioning the appropriation of funds.

Martavius Jones, who represents Super District 8, Position 3, was the only one to vote against the resolution that was sponsored by Mayor Jim Strickland and council members Worth Morgan (District 5), Gerrie Currie (District 6) and Cheyenne Johnson (Super District 8, Position 2).

“We have not been involved in developing what the priorities are for the city,” Jones said. “The council was not involved in this decision.”

Earlier this month, Strickland announced the city’s partnership with the University of Memphis and Tennis Memphis, asserting that the expansion would be good for tourism and the city’s youth. 

“If we get more children into these kinds of programs…tennis in particular, they’re less likely to be in trouble later in life. I’m excited about this partnership,” Strickland said during the press conference announcement.

Jones wasn’t the only council member to express concerns after Strickland’s announcement. Councilman Berlin Boyd initially suggested that the money stay in his district. However, on Tuesday the District 7 representative said he felt differently after speaking with Strickland. He even thanked the mayor for reaching out to him to provide clarity around the use of funds. 

The Council’s $3 million contribution comes through the Capital-Pay-Go fund. Projects funded by these allocations represent internally generated funds; but Jones said when the council budget hearings were taking place the funds were restricted. 

“My question is how did this particular project become the major priority once the restricted funds became unrestricted…especially when we didn’t make proper investments in some of our community centers and parks?”

The Council also approved another resolution that will affect the city’s largest university.  Jones was the only council to vote against the measure that allotted $2.3 million to realign Patterson St. that runs near the University of Memphis.

“My protest is that in one fell swoop we are giving District 5 and the University of Memphis $5 million,” Jones said. “We have to consider what’s being given to other districts.”

In addition to the city’s $3 million contribution for the Leftwich Center, the project received $11 million from private donors and $5 million from the university. The upgrade to the tennis center will add 20 more courts and will be used by the University of Memphis’ tennis teams, and the public. 

In other developments, the Council on Tuesday also voted to approve a new boutique hotel to be built on the southwest corner of Union Ave. and Fourth St., containing 1.22 acres in the Sports and Entertainment (SE) District.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

Tennis Center gets council OK; priority question raised

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