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Mystery tennis court donor unmasked

By Roxanne Glazier
Published: November 2008

Thanks to a surprise $20,000 donation from the Zuker family, the Friends of Newton Tennis raised enough money to fund a spring resurfacing of Newton South’s cracked tennis courts.

The cracks not only change the way the ball bounces on the courts but also cause concern about players twisting ankles and unnecessarily injuring themselves.

“I’ve definitely twisted my ankle once or twice getting my foot stuck [in the cracks], South boys’ tennis co-captain and senior Julian Albert said.

According to South girls’ tennis team coach Robert Jampol, “grass is growing [in some cracks.]

In addition, the trees are growing too close to the court so sap drips onto the playing field. Untrimmed bushes are tangled in the fence. The courts, built on a swamp, are also sinking.

“We feared that the courts would soon be unplayable, Jampol said. He asked Mayor David Cohen for funds to repair the courts.

According to Jampol, fully redoing the courts would cost approximately $600,000 but Cohen agreed to fix the courts for $80,000. The city committed to contributing half the money if Jampol could raise the other half.

Jampol responded by creating a nonprofit organization called “Friends of Newton Tennis, through the Newton South Booster Club.

“It is something that in reality the city should take care of on its own. There really should be a regular maintenance schedule…so Newton residents are not having to lobby and fundraise when the courts are deteriorated to such a condition that they be unplayable, boy’s tennis Coach Patrick McFarland said.

The Zuker family agreed to donate $20,000 if the organization could raise the remaining $20,000. The donation was made in memory of late assistant coach Linda Zuker.

Other members of the family were also active tennis players in the Newton community. Linda Zuker’s daughters Lauren and Danyel, were captains on the girls’ varsity tennis team and her son, Bobby Zuker, played on the boys’ junior varsity team.

According to Jampol, “If all goes well in the next two or three weeks, the city [will] allocate funds, secure a contractor, and arrange for work sometime next spring, Jampol said.

The courts, however, will likely not be finished in time for this year’s tennis season.

For tennis courts to be repaired, there must be a one to two week period of time that the temperature is above fifty degrees and it is dry outside. There is a slim chance that this will happen before spring sports.

According to McFarland, the uneven courts will make the season more of a challenge. “It’s not that it will change our abilities to succeed…[but] it makes practice more difficult. Reliable bounce for drills is important. McFarland said.

New courts will last a minimum of three years but because small cracks can easily be repaired, the courts should last longer than that.

“It’s not the ideal job, but it’s only one tenth of the cost…we hope that when North gets it’s new courts the city, in better times, will consider repaving ours, Jampol said.

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