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Proposal to Shift $552,000 To Tennis Projects Draws Concern

by Fatimah Waseem November 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm 36 Comments

As Reston Association’s board of directors finalize the budget for next year, a proposal by a board member to shift nearly $550,000 from the upkeep of baseball, softball and soccer fields to tennis projects is drawing ire from some Restonians.

Mike Sanio, board secretary and at-large board member is seeking to move $551,780 in funds to help fund eight tennis capital projects, including $514,700 in currently proposed funding for baseball, softball and soccer fields. The remaining $37,080 would come from last year’s deferred dollars.

Sanio urged RA to reprogram funds to fully address “the historic shortage of money” to maintain RA’s tennis courts, noting that the program provided a nearly 74 percent recovery rate for operating costs this year. In an Oct. 30 email, he questioned why RA subsidizes programs that it does not operate, including $155,000 for backstops and fencing at Browns Chapel. The current $127,000 two-year capital budget for tennis largely covers color coating.

“Our core recreational responsibilities are to sufficiently fund swimming, tennis, pathways, playgrounds, multipurpose courts, and lakes. It is not to fund sports run by independent organizations that have their own sources of revenue,” he wrote. 

Local community groups, including the Reston-Herndon Little League, plan to oppose the recommendation. 

“We are very concerned over the potential motion to reprogram funds from baseball, softball and soccer entirely over to tennis. We strongly believe there is enough funds to make sure members of our community can play on safe playing surfaces no matter which activity they choose to partake in. While we have always advocated for baseball fields to be improved, we would never do so at the complete expense of another activity that so many children and members of our community enjoy. We are hopeful that the RA board feels the same way,” said Tim Jones, the league’s president.

The board will meet on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the proposal, which is a fraction of RA’s overall capital and operating budgets. The board is also set to pass those budgets this Thursday.

The board will formally decide on a motion to review each of Sanio’s requests and provide a report to the board about the feasibility of funding prioritized projects to the board by February. Staff noted RA’s capital projects team has not yet reviewed projects suggested by Sanio.

Mike Leone, RA’s director of communications and community engagement, said the board aware of the community’s concerns and noted that final versions of the motions, the draft versions of which are available online, have not been finalized.

By a 3-2 vote in late October, the board approved up to $295,000 in improvements for North Hills tennis courts in response to concerns like limited lightning in the evenings and major cracks that run along the court. White and Bowman voted against the line item.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). The meeting will also be streamed on Reston Association’s YouTube channel.

  • Fred Simpson

    Mike Sanio is a complete joke. The man never comes to Board meetings and suddenly comes up with this asinine proposal. He wants funds to re-do tennis courts because his kids are in tennis camp. It’s a very ugly direction he’s taking.

  • Rational Reston

    In my 16 years in Reston, this is one of the worst proposals by a board member. It only beats the bocce courts because of the magnitude of money.

    Actually, converting unused tennis courts (there are a lot of them) to bocce courts would be a better idea.

  • Saved by Lasagna

    I thought Mike Insanio had excused himself and stepped down after the Lake Hut spending fiasco? I guess he can only thank the Reston Dinner Circuit for keeping him alive.

    Mike,
    You owe us the lasagna recipe.

    • Hasta Lasagna

      Don’t get any on you!

  • Tammi Petrine

    I sincerely deplore that Sanio has once again decided to ignore agreed-upon protocol of this new RA BOD that forbade it from voting on any serious proposal involving a huge budget item put forth at the same meeting. What happened to the pledge voted on earlier in 2017 to seek thorough cost/benefit analyses for projects before foisting them on our weary RA directors??? What happened to consulting the finance committee? What did it say?

    Last month the board voted on huge money (over $250K) to pay for North Hills clay court renovations. Now the tennis lobby is not satisfied but comes back this month with another huge ask? We RA members have no idea how many tennis players are even RA members. Citing their tennis petition last month, the Reston tennis group said they had 200 signatures. There are 20K+ homes in RA. If none of the 200 petition signers are from the same family, that represents less than 1% of paying RA member households! Their last speaker was from Herndon and regaled us with tales of how lucky he has been for the last 20 years to treat his GUESTS to RA’s huge Country Club style tennis courts. HE doesn’t even live in Reston!!!

    Then retirees spoke about needing new lighting so they could play at night. I kept thinking… wow, why wouldn’t retirees play during the day in order to make courts available for working people who are not able to play during the day? Two or a maximum of 4 people can play on any one court/hour. As wonderful as tennis may be for its devotees, how much subsidizing of tennis is prudent when we lack so many other rec. needs and are trying to reign in a run-away budget? How much do we pay year round for tennis staff to serve how many members?

    Sanio eagerly voted to pay Stone Turn $45K of RA Members’ money (vs. a pro bono Tetra analysis by Mediaworld) to guarantee transparency and establish sound spending processes. This same ‘spring it on ’em’ pattern is how we got into the Tetra mess. Stop it, MIKE!!! Four new BOD members will be elected soon. Hopefully THEY will uphold sanity here. Hopefully the rest of the current BOD will have the courage to hold the line on this outrageous move. I’m not in favor of no tennis budget but show me the breakdowns of cost to benefit please! RA members deserve nothing less.

    • Bethany

      FYI – members outside of RA properties can get tennis/swim memberships – they essentially just have to pay the RA membership fee and they get their own passes and are treated like homeowners of RA properties.

  • Adrian Havill

    Many, many more people participate in soccer and softball than tennis. Most of them are children and teens. Tennis courts are too often empty.

  • Richard

    Table the tennis court improvements until the next budget cycle. I like Tim Jones’ position on this. All of these key sports deserve funds to ensure safe, durable playing surfaces with sufficient hours to accommodate growing demand. The field sports budget requests have been fully-vetted. Due diligence has been performed with all stakeholders represented. Mr. Sanio’s proposal is out of the blue at the last moment without any input from staff or the public. It’s too late for such a massive change to this budget, but let’s keep an open mind to these tennis improvements in the coming years.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Supply adjusts to meet demand, not the reverse. I drive past the tennis courts off Walnut Branch at least once a week and guess how many people I see there playing? Zero.

      • Richard

        That’s beside the point. Sanio has manufactured a spat between tennis and field sports that doesn’t exist. Do a study to measure usage, for instance, but that kind of due diligence is required before a motion is approved to fund major investments.

    • Nodoginthisfight

      Tabling makes sense. There should be a penalty for trying to game the system (and abuse the trust of RA members) as Sanio has. Tennis’ budget of $127k for 52 courts is plenty for upkeep-if you want major expenditures, then follow established procedures designed to protect members’ $, as well as RA Board members’ reputations and legal fees. I would think that the rest of the board would do this, at a minimum, to protect themselves and maintain appropriate systems of control.

  • RoadApples

    Sanio: you are s knitwit: Per a 35 year Reston resident. And the horse you rode in on .

  • Upset

    This is entirely a conflict of interest because tennis is the sport his family participates in on top of the fact he is concerned about his own well being. As others have said there are more baseball and soccer players in Reston then tennis. There are probably more lacrosse, ice hockey, gymnastics and rugby players as RA families then tennis but they are never complain for RA to spend more for their sole benefit.

    • Hieronymus Bosch

      There are 52 Tennis Courts in Reston, 26 of them are lighted.

  • Scott

    I have no dog in this fight but honest question. Are the fields in question RA property, and therefore responsibility to maintain? If not what is RA’s involvement that would dictate hundreds of thousands of dollars go to their upkeep?

    • John Higgins

      Yes, the fields are owned by RA. And, yes, RA has an obligation to maintain them. The two issues before the board are: the appropriate level of “maintenance” (somewhere between sand lots and Camden Yard) and the allocation of resources for recreation facilities. Mr. Sanio’s point seems to be that on the one hand we have facilities at which RA runs programs (tennis passes, leagues, lessons, camps, etc.) and on the other hand (ballfields) the only programmed use is by outside groups of residents and non-residents. Clearly there must be a balance struck and that’s the discussion the board must undertake.

      Personally, I view youth team sports as an invaluable. They promote health, character, teamwork, and the merits of experiencing both victory and defeat. The same benefits accrue from active tennis programs like RA’s, across a smaller but broader spectrum of the population. Balance.

      • Scott

        thank you

  • Donald

    Sridhar Ganesan is a big advocate for major tennis expenditures as well.

    “From a general perspective of many years, progress on a community-wide referendum on indoor tennis has been excruciatingly slow and has stalled repeatedly at the RA board level for one reason or the other,” says Sridhar Ganesan, a member of the tennis advisory committee.

    “I think that there has been some progress made this year, but then it is very slow and everything takes a lot more time than it should or needs,” he said.

    “Progress has been made in many of the tasks that the Board laid out. Hopefully, the board will at least now move to a referendum quickly.”

    The proposed $3.8 million indoor facility would feature five courts and would be open year-round at Lake Newport.

    Ganesan says he is confident indoor tennis is something Reston needs.

    “In general, there is a lot of frustration and fatigue among tennis advocates on this issue,” he said. “For over two decades, the tennis advocates have been supporting the need for an indoor facility.

    “The RA itself has a top-rated tennis program and staff,” he said. “Yet, while many neighboring towns and cities have indoor tennis facilities, it is frustrating for tennis advocates to face such an uphill task just to get the RA Board to go to a public referendum.

    Let’s not let another generation grow old without the benefits of year-round tennis.”

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/patch.com/virginia/reston/amp/2385516/is-reston-any-closer-to-indoor-tennis

    • Tammi Petrine

      To be fair, the quotes you cite are from 2011. Now as newly appointed Treasurer of RA, one hopes Sridhar’s sense of responsibility and attention to prudent fiscal processes have reshaped his vision. No WAY is RA paying for any indoor tennis unless it is supported by referendum. In my view,indoor tennis is a private business venture opportunity in these days of RA budgetary restraints.

      • Donald

        It was one of his main platform initiatives when he ran for the Reston Association Board.

        “…Sridhar Ganesan says he will bring his 26 years of multi-disciplinary experience in media, telecom and technology and “roll-up-my-sleeves” attitude to the board. A Reston native for more than 12 years, he also considers himself an avid user of Reston’s out- door recreation facilities, such as the lakes, paths and tennis courts.

        “I think indoor tennis has been a need for this community for a long time,” he said. “Reston is known for its tennis, and other neighborhoods have indoor tennis, but we do not.”

        http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2011/030211/Reston.pdf

        Let’s hope his interests have changed.

        Donald

        • Tammi Petrine

          Donald, are you worried that if Sridhar runs for his seat in the 2018 RA BOD election, he will simply defer now but come on strong for Tennis if he is elected?

          • Donald

            Given the facts, he has been, and is now, a strong advocate for Reston Tennis. I’m not as concerned about his public efforts as I am his efforts behind the scenes.

            Donald

          • Hieronymus Bosch

            I attended the RA Board meeting last night and their new transparency is apparent. The vetting, financially and feasibly, was displayed when discussing the Pony Barn options – perhaps it the new direction of the Board.
            Where is the $3.5M figure coming from? If tennis in Reston wants to raise private money, or any entity for that matter who cares? The baseball, soccer, softball, or tennis communities can improve Reston-owned with private investment all they want. What is wrong with that?

          • Donald

            Read the referenced articles.

            Donald

          • Tammi Petrine

            Oh, Don/John, you are so transparent. Too much emphasis on Sridhar Ganesan, my friend. His responsibility to is to RA and he knows it. Sanio pretty much poisoned the well on Tennis ever getting away with future larceny, didn’t he? In fact, tennis now may not even get their fair share of RA funds because of Sanio’s nutty/destructive power grab attempt.

            On the other hand, Ganesan has obviously taken on yeoman’s work doing deep dives into RA finances and processes – that takes hours and hours and he is NOT retired! So I’m not going along with your character assassination of him for past pro-tennis comments. Anyone who gives his time and cares as much as Ganesan deserves some respect.

            Of course there is a way to go. WE all know that technology is improving, reform is tough – requires discipline and time – and staff has to reinvent their business habits as well. We all, including everyone on BOD, need to LISTEN carefully to RA’s fiscal committee. With them, our ‘new’ RA BOD and Ganesan as treasurer, RA is better positioned now to be transparent and accountable than ANY time in the last 4 decades.

            Now regarding that Tetra fiasco… That will be a tipping point for RA in many regards. Truth will out. All cards will be on table at that point, won’t they? Stay tuned.

            PS: Not sure but I don’t even think anyone in Sridhar’s family even plays tennis anymore… saw him hobbling around with a bum knee at a meeting not too long ago.

          • Donald

            Well, I guess we will just have to see.

            Donald

      • Conservative Senior

        There are lots of private, indoor tennis courts.

  • SuperCoop1280

    This is a odd proposal but frankly ever since RLL changed its name to RHLL, they have lost my support. Everyone involved in RLL took the survey and voted on the proposal to change the name and those results were never made public. The announcement of the name change was written very defensively which led many (myself included) to think that the results were not in favor of the change. RHLL can seek more help from Herndon or just require the kids to sell more of those useless coupon books. McLean baseball has such a better system on fundraising and you think by now RhLL would get it right.

    • Richard

      What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Move along, grouch.

      • SuperCoop1280

        It actually says something. They want Restonians to act and speak to RA but it is not a full Reston organization. How much are they getting from Herndon? They have other avenues to raise money if needed. I am just calling out the facts but if name calling is your thing, you have that right under the 1st Amendment. Just glad you are not my neighbor.

        • Alan

          RHLL pays to use the RA fields, same as they pay to use county fields. If RA were to run their own baseball league, it would cost them way more than the current expenses to maintain the field. RHLL does a tremendous amount of maintenance to the fields, saving RA tons of money. In addition, RHLL pays more for non-RA members to use the fields. Just like non-RA members that participate in the RA Tennis program. Keep in mind, these are RA assets, they have to maintain them no matter which organization applies for permits to use them. Two years ago RHLL contributed $25,000 to RA to assist in field renovations. That’s pretty significant for a little league.

        • Alan

          Furthermore, RA kids get to play at Fred Crabtree Park, which is one of the premier fields in the county. It has a Herndon address.

  • Hieronymus Bosch

    REVISED motion on Reston Association’s website this morning:

    Board Motion 2: Move to “Provisionally” approve the 2018 Capital Projects list, provided that each of the listed items related to active recreation facilities including pools, ballfields and tennis will be subject to final approval only after detailed analysis and due diligence on the capital maintenance and upkeep of the Association’s active recreation facilities. Further, after such analysis and due diligence that includes participation from all stakeholders including user-groups, the 2018 Capital Projects list may be amended as approved by the Board.
    In undertaking the 2018 projects list, staff shall follow the Association’s new internal control protocol processes as is being done with the Pony Barn, Central Services Facility Renovation, and Hook Road Park projects, with appropriate Board reviews throughout each project life cycle, as required or needed.”

    The maintenance of the soccer fields is poor at best – many are mostly dirt and rocks in the center of the fields which is a danger for the kids who use them

    For revenue generation and to offset costs associated with maintenance of said fields, those who use them and are not paying should. There are often adult teams using the fields at all hours and they should be paying, as registered organizations do.

  • Champs or chimps?

    I would in principal agree to this large tennis budget and the gold spicket water fountains if they each year bring a tennis team to the USTA nationals. The same applies to their tennis programs, they should be 100% cost recoverable and green fees should be billed to all non RA members; eg $10/day guest pass. Pro shop / restaurant at Lk Newport. People here can afford it and tennis space is in high demand due to clubs closing.

    Until we have a team going to the Nationals lets not so anything but save money.

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