Tennis courts near the fairgrounds at Bernie E. Hillermann Park could soon become basketball courts.

During the March 20 park board meeting Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle said he would start looking at grants to repair the surface of the tennis courts. However, instead of just limiting the project to tennis, Dunkle was encouraged to see if grants were available to create multiple basketball courts instead.

Dunkle said the courts at Hillermann Park are in need of costly repairs.

“Regardless of what we use it for, we’re going to have to do something to it,” Dunkle said.

Based on estimates from a contractor, Dunkle said a low-end “Band-Aid” fix would cost about $25,000 to repair the tennis courts. On the high end, a complete overhaul could cost $100,000.

Instead of spending that much money, the park board wondered if it would be cheaper to turn it into a couple of basketball courts.

“Basketball doesn’t have to be surfaced like tennis,” city Councilman Mark Hidritch said.

To get the courts fixed, Dunkle said he has been looking for grant money to complete the project. He said he has found several tennis-specific grants, but said he would check to see if basketball grants are available.

The board agreed the space could easily be converted to two or three basketball courts.

With the fencing and lights already available, city Councilman Jeff Patke said the area would be an ideal place to host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

“It would be perfect for that,” Tessie Steffens said.

Board member Bill Kackley said in addition to hosting a 3-on-3 tournament, basketball courts could be used by a variety of different groups within the city.

Dunkle said he already priced out equipment for a basketball facility. The board also suggested seeking donations or auction items in an effort to save some money.

Steffens did warn the board that some people might not be happy if the city considers getting rid of the first two tennis courts in the city.

“You’re going to have people upset,” she said.

Dunkle said tennis players would still have some place to go in the city — Phoenix Park.

Prairie Burn

There will not be a prairie burn this spring.

“Right now we are past the recommended deadline to do it,” Dunkle said. “They recommend you don’t do it past March.”

Dunkle said it’s allowed to have a burn in April, but it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards this year. With his staff occupied and the difficulty of nailing down the availability of the fire department, it creates a scheduling nightmare.

“It’s going to take everyone on my staff plus 10 or so people on the fire department,” Dunkle said. “That’s according to standards.”

Even when a schedule has been made, the weather hasn’t played along.

“Every time we got a plan together, it’s either rained, been too windy, the conditions are too wet or they’re too dry,” Dunkle said.

Dunkle said he is targeting the fall for a potential burn.

In the meantime, Dunkle said he plans to take a brush hog and a forestry machine to the area for some maintenance. Once that’s done, a fall burn would be possible.