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Public blasts Atlanta City Council’s double fault on tennis contract

By Stephen Deere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga (CNT)

For the past year, the issue of managing the city of Atlanta’s five tennis facilities have underscored the sport’s popularity — and a deep political divide over the politics of awarding the contract.

Agape Tennis Academy, has now twice won the bidding process for a contract to manage the facilities.

But last month, after the council listened to more than four hours of public comment mostly supporting the firm that has managed the facilities for the past decade, city council members decided to double fault on awarding the contract to Agape with a 14-1 vote.

The decision left the the city Parks and Recreation Department in charge of the facilities.

On Monday, supporters of Agape served up two hours of comments blasting council members for not following their own procurement rules by not awarding the contract to Agape, which has twice provided taxpayers with the best bid.

Midtown resident John Anderson told the council that the city isn’t up to the task. Anderson said he sometimes has to call up to 48 hours in advance to reserve a court.

“The city of Atlanta does not have the expertise to run tennis facilities,” Anderson said. “They don’t understand what tennis players expect.”

The path forward is unclear. The city could rebid the contract a third time. It also faces the possibility of a lawsuit, if Agape takes the issue to court and asks a judge to force the council to comply with the city’s contracting rules.

An Agape spokesman did not return a phone message Monday seeking comment.

With renewal provisions, the contract could be worth up to $25 million over nine years — an estimate that was made before the COVID-19 pandemic. The city would have received about 20 percent of the revenue.

Councilman J.P. Matzigkeit, who made the motion last month to deny Agape the contract, said two of the five centers are located in his district and he believes he acted in the best interests of the community.

“Thirteen other council members agreed with me,” Matzigkeit said. “The ball is now in the park’s department court.”

A spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms deflected questions about whether its park’s department had the capacity to effectively manage the facilities.

“Based on the results of an exhaustive procurement process, a recommendation was provided to the Atlanta City Council, which did not accept the recommendation,” the spokesman said.