Keep UTA tennis center sign

A group of residents supporting Universal Tennis Management in its bid to remain the contracted management company for the city of Atlanta's five tennis centers, including the Chastain Park and Bitsy Grant ones in Buckhead, have created yard signs stating, ‘Keep UTA.’

After cancelling a series of meetings at each of its five tennis centers, the city of Atlanta is seeking residents’ input on the centers’ next contract through an online survey.

In his email newsletter, District 8 Atlanta City Councilman J.P. Matzigkeit, who represents part of Buckhead, encouraged residents to voice their opinions.

“Because Atlanta is a great tennis city (the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association has approximately 80,000 members, one of the largest community tennis organizations in the U.S.), this contract is a big deal,” Matzigkeit wrote.

The meetings were to take place June 17 through 21 but were cancelled by the city’s parks and recreation department, which then opted for the online survey, which has a deadline of July 1. Residents’ input is important because much is riding on the new contract.

May 9, the city canceled the first request for proposals (RFP) process for the renewal of the contract involving the centers after the company managing them, Universal Tennis Management, filed an official protest regarding the city’s decision to award the contract to the only other bidding business, Agape Tennis Academy, claiming the move was unfair. So the process will start over again.

Universal Tennis Management, which has managed the 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.

The stakes are high. The new contract is for 15 years, split into three five-year increments. But if the city is pleased with the management of its facilities once the first five-year period is over, the company can sign for the remainder of the overall contract length.

Universal and its supporters had feared the contract would be awarded to Agape 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.

Once Universal’s supporters heard Agape might be awarded the contract during the first RFP process, the ones 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.

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

Noonan said he expects the city to restart the RFP process within a few weeks after input has been gathered. He added he’s OK with the city using an online survey to collect input.

“It’s their facilities, and however they want to gather information is up to them,” Noonan said. “As long as people’s voices are heard, it doesn’t matter to me which way they do it.”

To fill out the survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/JGKXBKC.

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