Salt Lake City chokes on tennis court contract
Mulligans are usually reserved for the golf course, but Salt Lake City appears to have taken one on its tennis courts.
The do-over comes amid the uproar sparked when Mike Martines was not awarded a contract to continue operating the Dee Glen Smith Tennis Park near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, where he also runs Coach Mike's Tennis Academy.
"Coach Mike," as he is affectionately known, has operated the facility for 15 years and plowed more than $500,000 in private donations into the city-owned operation. He also has built a loyal tennis community. Hundreds of his disgruntled patrons have protested the contract situation to the City Council and Mayor Ralph Becker at public hearings and by emails and phone calls.
Despite a preliminary nod to another concessionaire to operate both the Dee Smith and Liberty Park tennis facilities, Salt Lake City has now formally rejected all bids and has canceled the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.
The mayor's spokesman, Art Raymond, said Monday the city will reboot a more refined RFP process.
After a raucous City Council public hearing earlier this month, Raymond conceded the RFP needed "rethinking."
The original RFP was canceled, according to a letter Thursday to bidders from the Department of Public Services, because "the city has determined our priorities specific to revenue, at-risk youth programming, and site/facility improvement delineation were not adequately represented in the initial RFP."
The letter, signed by chief procurement officer R. Bryan Hemsley, also states the rejection of all the proposals submitted "was not for the benefit of any individual offerer."
Martines, who had filed an official protest with the city, said he doesn't know what to make of the recent developments.
"The city rejected our protest by email. An hour later they sent a second email saying they were withdrawing the RFP," he said. "I don't know what to say."
Bruce Wood, who is a Martines backer and contributor to "Coach Mike's" organization, said the tennis community will keep pushing until Martines has his contract renewed.
"We aren't going to take it for granted that the city will do the right thing," Wood said. "We have significant resolve to keep pushing this. We will be vigilant."
Another Martines supporter, Bill Paulos, said a new RFP would be good news but he, too, is befuddled by the city's actions. "Coach Mike is a citizen who should be celebrated, not fired."