By Amy Wenk

Sandy Springs tennis players scored big Dec. 15.

City Council postponed, until Nov. 1, 2010, awarding the management contract for the Sandy Springs Tennis Center on Abernathy Road.

“We haven’t put the input into it that we really need to,” Dist. 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio said.

Last month, the Parks and Recreation Department had recommended that Council grant Windward Tennis Management the contract to manage the center’s operations, not Fulton Tennis Services that has run the 24-court facility for 19 years.

The possibility of losing operators Ivo and Martine Barbic brought citizen tennis players out in droves, and Council deferred a decision after questions were raised about the selection process.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, there was standing room only as supporters of Fulton Tennis Services crowded Council chambers.

Art Schultz, a board member of the Sandy Springs Tennis Association, presented Council with a long petition of signatures that spanned the boardroom aisle, and many people spoke against the change in management.

“We have a true gem with the Sandy Springs Tennis Center,” said Rod Warren, a resident who has played at the facility for about 20 years.

Dave Power, president of Windward Tennis Management that runs the private Windward Lake Club in Alpharetta, defended his services and refuted the allegations his company had no experience running a public tennis facility.

“It would be an easy adjustment for us to come in,” said Power, a tennis professional since 1969. “Not only are we a larger program, but we also already do everything you require … We feel we can take the facility to the next level.”

But Council felt more time was needed to decide. It is the first time the city has bid out the management contract since it took control of the tennis center from Fulton County in 2006.

“I think through this process we have realized there is a difference in vision on Council about what we want the future of the tennis center to be,” Dist. 2 Councilmember Dianne Fries said. She made the motion to postpone a decision on the contract. “This vision is cloudy with all of us.”

Fulton Tennis Center’s contract will be extended through Nov. 1. In the meantime, the city will consult with citizens to draft a new Request for Proposal (RFP) to be bid out in July.

“We do want an organized and orderly process where we get community input,” Mayor Galambos said. “The RFP should reflect what the community wants.”

Fries suggested the committee that reviews the RFP consist of the Director of Parks and Recreation, Director of Finance and three members of the tennis community that are not affiliated with any of the applicants.

Council members also asked citizens to be more judicious in their behaviors with future RFP processes.

“I’m a little concerned about the amount of lobbying by one party,” DeJulio said.

Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins agreed. “I do not want this to turn into a political mess.”

After the contract is awarded Nov. 1, the new management company will take over tennis operations Jan. 1, 2011. The contract is for one year with two opportunities for renewal.