A brighter spotlight is now shining on the tennis courts at Westchester Park.
And a coalition of residents, tennis advocates, vendors and Los Angeles city officials are mostly to thank for giving the tennis courts their new lights, 32 to be exact.
Community members and tennis groups, including the Tennis Key and Westchester Tennis Club, will celebrate the illuminated addition to the park’s tennis facility with a “Turn on the Lights” ceremony from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 23, when all of the new lights will be lit for the public for the first time. Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl is scheduled to attend the event, which will feature tennis clinics and a fastest serve contest.
“We are extremely humbled and proud that this was a collaborative effort by the community, Councilman Rosendahl’s office, L.A. Parks and Recreation, the Tennis Key and the Westchester Tennis Club,” said Hai Nguyen, director of tennis at the Tennis Key, which offers lessons and a junior program at the facility. “It is amazing what we were able to achieve by working together.”
The new lights at the eight tennis courts are the latest improvement to be showcased at Westchester Park, which in the last year, has welcomed a new skate park, a renovated swimming pool, and a new basketball court, playground and gym. Park Advisory Board President Scott Carni called the 32 light fixtures the “final touch” to the recent enhancements the park has seen, adding that they provide an element of safety.
“I think it finishes off the front end of the park beautifully. It’s such a tremendous addition not only for the tennis patrons but for the facility itself,” said Carni.
Members of the Tennis Key and tennis club recalled how the courts’ lighting was overdue for replacement, as players were struggling to see clearly at night and many clients were being turned away due to the poor visibility.
“The lighting has always been very inadequate by most standards, and a lot of people refused to play there at night,” said Les Watt, a board member of the Westchester Tennis Club.
The tennis groups had hoped to include the lights’ installation along with the other park improvements but after the skate park was completed, the project’s funding resources were depleted.
“It’s something everybody wanted but the resources didn’t allow for it, so everyone banded together,” Nguyen said.
Watt said he initiated a campaign to get support for the lights from the community. He approached an avid tennis player, Bill Hein, the founder of Visionaire Lighting whose company was donating eight tennis court lights to raise money for a local charity. The tennis club and Tennis Key were able to raise more than $3,000 through two fundraisers to purchase the initial eight lights.
Nguyen was not surprised to see the community’s generosity, saying the Tennis Key is a very family oriented facility and the community has been quick to jump on board during prior fundraisers.
Hein had also learned that 14 lights his company had sold to the city were never installed, and through the efforts of Recreation and Parks Department staff, the lights were approved for placement at Westchester. The courts’ remaining 10 lights were acquired with the help of Rosendahl’s staff, who met with the tennis groups and parks department staff to find an additional $6,000 in funding.
The light fixtures still needed to be installed, and that’s when Westchester Tennis Club member Mike Paskus of Paskus Electric offered for his company to install the lighting at cost. The first phase of installation was done Feb. 29 and the final phase will be completed prior to the dedication ceremony.
Rosendahl said he made the court lights part of his overall strategy of upgrading the park and the project was finally able to be realized with a combination of people in the community working to make it happen.
“This just shows that the public and private sectors can work together in something they believe in,” the councilman said.
With the tennis facility, as well as the skate park, basketball courts, playground and swimming pool, Westchester Park has a mix of amenities for the whole family, he said.
“The whole goal of a park is to make it family friendly and to put in a mix of activities that the whole family can enjoy,” Rosendahl said.
Nguyen said it “speaks volumes for the community” that residents were willing to donate toward the lighting project despite challenging economic times.
“There were a lot of people that contributed to making it happen and maybe this will stimulate more things like that,” Watt said.
Carni added, “I think it shows that Westchester-Playa del Rey is a community like none other. There are countless members of the community who care that enjoy the lifestyle and facilities in the area and are willing to step forward to go the extra mile.”
The illuminated addition has made the court area not only more inviting but a safer environment for both players and visitors, Nguyen said. The lights are also more energy efficient than the older models, he said.
For Watt, the lights have made the courts feel more alive.
Carni said the next phase of planned upgrades at the park includes two new batting cages and park staff are also in the process of securing funds for a 19-camera video security system throughout the park.