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Tennis bubble at park grows into brouhaha

The bubble hasn't burst, but a $750,000 project to cover Liberty Park tennis courts has been put on hold.

Residents have stalled a project to put a donated bubble roof over four courts, complaining that proper procedures weren't followed when city leaders approved the plan.

"If the city refuses to take any action, it will be necessary for me to take any legal action available," Melissa Barbanell wrote to Public Services director Rick Graham.

Liberty Park is on the state and national registrar of historic sites, so new construction falls under the purview of the city's Historic Landmarks Commission. When the city's Public Services Department wanted to add the bubble, city planners told them they could do it administratively instead of having a hearing before the commission.

However, Barbanell is arguing that the department should have gone before the commission before moving ahead.

She said the bubble is a "substantial alteration" to the park, instead of a "minor alteration," which wouldn't require a hearing.

Also, Barbanell maintains the bubble, which is 36 feet high, is too big to be placed in the park, which is zoned as open space and therefore can't contain structures higher than 35 feet, according to city code.

The city's public services department has issued a 30-day stop order to determine if the complaint is valid.

Still, Graham expects the bubble will be up in time for winter play. That should be welcome news for tennis players who have been waiting more than a year for the enclosure.

Planning Director Louis Zunguze said his department will be looking into Barbanell's complaints in the next few days.