Thwack! Tennis Returns to Fair Haven Fields

October 8, 2017
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By Jay Cook |

Mayor Ben Lucarelli cut the ribbon at the newly refurbished Fair Haven tennis courts on Thursday. The courts will also be used for Pickleball.

FAIR HAVEN – It’s time to knock the dust off those tennis shoes.

The long-awaited rejuvenation of the town’s tennis courts is finally finished.

The tennis facilities at Fair Haven Fields, off RidgeRoad, are remarkably improved thanks to an interlocal funding agreement between Fair Haven’s governing body and the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional school district, Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli said at a ribbon cutting on Sept. 28.

The $370,000 cost was equally split between the two parties for the total refurbishment of the park’s four existing tennis courts, as well as the addition of a fifth court.

Lucarelli said the borough had been looking at a $250,000-plus price tag to do the work on its own, considering the “courts were shot, they were unplayable” prior to the improvements.

Two of the five courts are now also lined for Pickleball, a sport combining tennis, tables tennis, and badminton, played with an oversized ball. It’s “the fastest growing sport in the nation,” said Kim Smith, a representative with the United States Pickleball Association.

Lengthy talks between the borough and the school district preceded the year long project. Not only were the court surfaces visibly splitting apart, but RFH athletes were bouncing between venues during practice and games. The high school grounds provided three courts, and two more were used at Piping Rock Memorial Park, located across from the high school on Forrest Avenue.

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Rumon-Fair Haven students will use the courts for daily practice during their season.

It had caused quite a disadvantage, said RFH athletic director Chris Lanzalotto.

“With the success of our boys and girls, it happens every single season where we get to a point where have a home court advantage, but we have to either play at our opponent or play on someone else’s court,” he said, noting additional supervision issues arose from the significant distance between both locations.

RFH’s girls tennis team will primarily use the courts in the fall. The high school’s boys tennis team, as well as Knollwood Elementary School’s boys tennis team, are planning to play there in the spring seasons.

But most importantly, “these are public courts,” said DJ Breckenridge, the borough’s recreation director.

While students would use the courts weekdays from

3:30 to 6:30 p.m. for about four to five months, they will be open to the public the rest of the time, Breckenridge said.

He said borough residents have consistently inquired about installing areas for Pickleball, leading to the two cour ts being additionally lined for the new sport. It’s “growing amongst active adults and even seniors as well,” Breckenridge added.

On Sunday, Oct. 8, Fair Haven will be hosting its first free adult Pickleball clinic beginning at 12:30 p.m. at Fair Haven Fields. All necessary equipment will be provided by the borough. Similar Pickleball programs and courts have been recently introduced through the Monmouth County Park System and the Red Bank YMCA.

The tennis courts officially opened with a match between RFH and Mater Dei Prep on Sept. 28. Tom Rumage, who was watching his granddaughter Jamie Rumage play, said it’s a relief to have these new courts in service.

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“It’s a good project, certainly the right thing to do,” he said. “I think it’s a community thing – Rumson and Fair Haven.”

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 5-12, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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