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614-583-5000 3600 Tremont Rd
Northam Study Area

Northam Park Improvements Update

At the November 13 City Council Meeting, the City’s Parks & Recreation Department shared the construction bid results for a series of Northam Park improvements, following an extensive study and design process. Council is expected to vote on the recommendation at its November 20 Meeting, which begins at 7 pm, at the Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.

The City’s original plans for renovating the Northam tennis courts and service building fell victim to inflationary market conditions in the fall of 2022, when construction bids exceeded estimates, even after the project scope had been refined in the months prior to issuing the bid. This resulted in a 30% increase in budget estimates.

At Council’s request, Staff returned to the drawing board with its design consultants at OHM Advisors and Ballard King, to determine the best path forward for this phase of the Northam Park Vision Plan. This included a look at the history of Northam Tennis, usage statistics and comparisons to similar facilities in the region. The team concluded that eight clay courts would be sufficient to sustain the Northam Tennis program and that reducing the size of the service building by approximately 12% and combining everything into one structure would still accomplish the City’s service and amenity goals while containing costs.

In May of 2023, City Council directed Staff to proceed with detailed design work for this recommendation, with the possible addition of a ninth court if bids ultimately proved favorable.

Recognizing that this approach would create just under half an acre of space in the park that could be repurposed – between the tennis courts and Tremont Pool – the department also began to explore potential uses for this area, with residents invited to provide input along the way. This study began with creation of a list of potential uses based on findings from the 2018 Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan. These options were then ranked using a series of evaluation criteria.

At an August 29 Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) Meeting, Staff presented an overview of this study process, along with recommendations for how to reuse this space once it is no longer part of the Northam Tennis complex.

Staff presented two options:

  • Construct six pickleball courts, allowing for additional green space with a pathway and small shelter or trellis between the courts and Tremont Pool, additional green space and a second small shelter or trellis to the south of the courts, and a shade structure within the Northam Tennis complex.
  • Construct two asphalt tennis courts to provide Council the option to support limiting the number of uses at Northam Park, with a focus on pursuing dedicated pickleball courts at Thompson and/or Fancyburg parks at a future date.

A majority of PRAB members reacted positively, with the board voting 6-1 to endorse the Staff recommendation of pickleball in the new space with an alternate of asphalt tennis.

The resulting bid package for the Northam Tennis and shelter improvements included a series of bid alternates for consideration:

  • Construct an additional clay tennis court for a total of nine courts.
  • Construct six pickleball courts, improved pathway access and additional green space.
  • Construct a shelter within the tennis complex.
  • Construct two small shelter/trellis structures in the green space area.

Remarkably, approximately one year after the first construction bid for the tennis courts and service building proved too costly to implement, market conditions have changed drastically once again – this time favorably so. The lowest and best bid came in 28% below estimates, at $2.8 million. The added cost for including the bid alternates of pickleball courts, the ninth tennis court, shelters and pathway improvements would bring the total cost to $3.26 million – a number that still falls below the primary estimate for the tennis and service building improvements.

While it could be argued that this significant change in market conditions might justify reconsidering the number of clay tennis courts to be included in the improvements, several factors have led Staff to conclude that proceeding with the project as it currently stands makes the most sense:

  • Revisiting the detailed design would only lead to further delay and added cost;
  • It is impossible to predict what the construction market will look like approximately six months from now; and
  • Findings from the analysis of Northam Tennis do not support a 12-court facility.

However, recognizing that this favorable bid result will enable the City to maximize its investment in this portion of Northam Park, Staff is also proposing that Council authorize a project change order that would provide for underground irrigation for the clay courts. This enhancement would elevate the quality of the courts and maximize available playing time.

Residents can learn more about the challenges and opportunities that have accompanied this phase of the Northam Park Vision Plan in the following ways:

  • Click here to view the November 13 presentation
  • Click here to view the Staff Report
  • Click here to view the November 13 Council video (the Northam discussion begins at approximately 1 hour 45 minutes into the meeting video)
  • Click here to view the Northam Fields & Tennis project page

If the Northam Tennis service building and tennis courts, plus the recommended add alternates – bringing the number of clay courts to nine – and the change order to include underground irrigation are approved by Council, construction is expected to begin early in 2024, with an anticipated completion by the Winter of 2025.

It’s been a long and complicated issue for the team to work through, but the process has ultimately resulted in a great solution for our community that will enable the City to maximize its investment. Pending Council’s support on November 20, these improvements will provide the tennis community with a state-of-the-art clay court facility, while also bringing a much-awaited new amenity to the community in the form of pickleball courts. The park’s accessibility and aesthetics will be enhanced with the new shelters, pathway, additional trees and landscaping improvements, and all park patrons will be able to enjoy the year-round restrooms.

Residents are encouraged to submit your feedback on this project with City Council and Staff. Send an email to [email protected] or attend the November 20 Council Meeting, where you can complete a speaker slip and share your thoughts as part of the discussion.

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