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Austin Tennis Center renaming debate remains tied

Friday, November 20, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Most people seem to agree that the Austin Tennis Center could use a new name, but City Council moved no closer to replacing the current, prosaic moniker Thursday afternoon.

Instead, Council remained firm in its commitment to postpone the renaming in order to allow the Parks and Recreation Department to sort out its naming procedures, which have been a source of stress in recent months. As such, the Parks and Recreation Board has instituted a moratorium on naming.

Renaming of the Austin Tennis Center was in process before the moratorium, and the fact that the Parks and Recreation Board recommended not moving forward with the naming – and there are two names on the table – gave Council members pause.

Tom Webber, who is the president of the Capital Area Tennis Association, thanked Council for taking the time to discuss the issue and urged it to move forward. He explained that his organization began the process of trying to name the center after Carol Welder in March and was told that its application would be tabled until naming guidelines had been established.

In June, Webber said, city legal determined it should be considered under the existing rules. At that time, he learned that the application to name the center after Sarah Pernell had also been submitted.

Given the circumstances, Webber explained that the group’s facilities committee voted unanimously to name the center after both women. They eventually agreed to name the facility after Welder and the courts after Pernell.

“Unfortunately, at the Parks Board meeting, unsubstantiated and anonymous rumors of coercion were allowed to be introduced, alternative naming motions were allowed to be made and our agreed compromise was never considered, much less acted upon,” said Webber.

Webber told Council that, as a result of that discussion, the board recommended against renaming the center until new standards were established. He asked Council to “consider the uncounted hours that members of our organization have already devoted in good faith to this process over the last nine months” and name the center after both women as they had suggested.

“There are those who have tried to turn this into an East Austin versus West Austin issue,” said Webber. “But the decision here involves not a neighborhood tennis center, but the Austin Tennis Center.”

Council unanimously postponed the renaming to its Feb. 4 meeting, in the hope that new naming guidelines would be established by that point. Applications for naming the center after Pernell and Welder are available on the city’s website in the meantime.

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