The City of Owensboro is planning to expand Merchant Centre Court, aided by a large donation from the Owensboro-Daviess County Tennis Association.

The Tennis Association raised $200,000, which will be matched by $250,000 in city funds, Assistant City Manager Lelan Hancock said. The plan is to add three tennis courts at the tennis facility, for a total of 12 courts.

The facility was originally designed for 12 courts, Hancock said.

“It went through the bid process, and they decided to cut (three courts) out to save some funds,” Hancock said.

The Tennis Association’s funds largely come from a donation from Tommy and Judi Thompson, said Noel Clayton, a member of the organization.

“They donated a substantial amount of money,” Clayton said. “The Tennis Association is throwing in some money to get it to the half-way point.”

The courts will be named after William H. Thompson, Tommy Thompson’s father, if the Thompson family wishes, Clayton said.

“We need three more courts out there,” Clayton said. “This will help us get more tournaments and maintain the tournaments we have.”

Tommy Thompson, a retired state legislator and home builder with Thompson Homes, said he donated in honor of his father.

“My dad just so loved it, and he played up until his mid-70s,” Thompson said. “I thought, when they wanted to build these new courts, I could play a role and use it to honor and foster the memory of my dad. Tennis was his passion.”

Hancock said there is a demand for new tennis courts in the city.

“Tennis is a huge interest in our community,” Hancock said.

During the pandemic “outside play was huge, because there was distance” on tennis courts between players, Hancock said.

The Tennis Association has put up funds, “and we are going to invest some more as well,” said Hancock, who had praise for the Tennis Association. “They have been an excellent partner to deal with. I can’t thank them enough for the relationship we have.”

The courts will be built in the same area where they were originally planned, Hancock said. There is a shade structure and a light pole in the location for shade that will be relocated.

“The area is mostly vacant where the courts will go,” Hancock said.

The likelihood is the city won’t seek construction bids until the end of the year, Hancock said.

“Currently, we are trying to select an architect and get the plans finalized,” he said.

Thompson, who still plays tennis, said he hoped the new courts will help grow interest in the sport, while also attracting more tournaments to Centre Court.

“It’s amazing how the sport of tennis has expanded nationally and regionally,” Thompson said. “Centre Court is such an asset for our community ... It’s hard to find a facility with that kind of capacity.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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