The city of Atlanta has canceled a request for proposals for the renewal of the contract involving its five tennis centers after the company managing them filed an official protest regarding the city’s decision to award the contract to another business with ties to prominent Democrats.

Universal Tennis Management, which has managed the city’s tennis centers since 2010, had its nine-year contract with the city expire May 11 but got a 90-day extension to Aug. 11 while undergoing the protest/appeal process with the city in an effort to win the new contract.

Universal manages the Chastain Park, Bitsy Grant, Sharon Lester, Washington Park and Joseph McGhee tennis centers at Chastain, Atlanta Memorial, Piedmont, Washington and White parks, respectively, and is based at the Chastain center.

Universal and its supporters had feared the contract would be awarded to Agape Tennis Academy because of the possible connections its owner, Amy Pazahanick, had with prominent Democrats. Pazahanick posted on her Facebook page photos of her with District 5 U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, but said she met them only once and their meeting had nothing to do with the Atlanta tennis centers contract.

Universal’s supporters living near Chastain Park have put signs in their yards the color and shape of tennis balls stating “Keep UTA.” Also, adults and students supporting Universal started two separate petitions posted to the website change.org asking the city council to keep Universal as its tennis center management provider.

Because Universal’s leaders felt the city was unfair in awarding the contract to Agape, it filed the protest in late February, said Tim Noonan, a Universal partner and co-founder.

In a May 9 letter, the city’s chief procurement officer, David Wilson II, briefly explained why the city cancelled the RFP for the project.

“This cancellation is made in accordance with city of Atlanta Procurement Code Section 2-1194, which states, ‘an invitation for bids, a request for proposals or any other solicitation under this article may be cancelled … as may be specified in the solicitation, when it is in the best interest of the city.’ The request for proposals for FC-10637 is being cancelled in order to resolicit,” Wilson wrote.

Noonan said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the city’s decision, adding it was “something we hoped for.” He said the city has not yet set a date on when the new RFP process will take place, and has already called the procurement department to ask for that info once it’s been announced.

In its protest filings, Universal argued it was a superior company compared to Agape, mainly based on its “world-class programming and customer service,” Noonan said.

“I think (the procurement department) took a close look at things and I don’t know the details, but they must have realized there was some aspect of the process they were not happy with and that’s what we wanted,” he said. “What we were asking from the beginning was to take a closer look at the process and determine if it was being executed fairly on our behalf.”

Pazahanick said Agape will go back to the drawing board in rebidding for the Atlanta tennis centers contract.

“I think it is what it is. We just have to do it again,” she said, adding she heard from the procurement department that the process could start over again as early as June. “It’s just part of the process, and we just do it again and do it again more diligently and stronger than before.”

Wilson did not return a phone message left at his office.

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