Wheelchair athletes keen on easy new access
June 11, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE— For many wheelchair athletes – and regular folks in wheelchairs - access is the name of the game. And that game, quite literally, just got a little easier to play at the Jerry Cline Recreation and Tennis Center.
The newly constructed Jerry Cline facility opened to rave reviews in March of 2013; thousands of athletes and community members of all abilities have visited and played on the 18 tennis courts, enjoyed improved locker and meeting facilities, and relaxed on the comfortable outdoor patio.
Several months ago, the United States Tennis Association/Northern New Mexico Tennis Association (USTA/NNMTA) and wheelchair athlete Enrique Aguilar began a wheelchair tennis league, known as “Wednesday Wheelaround” at Jerry Cline. The league has seen growth in numbers and is flourishing; participation is strong among wheelchair tennis players.
To access the courts from inside Jerry Cline, a door adjacent to the play surface is utilized. The door was originally constructed to accommodate standard wheelchairs; however, sports wheelchairs are wider than the standard wheelchair. To that end, the organizers of “Wednesday Wheelaround” and the USTA/NNMTA approached the City with a request to retrofit the court access door to accommodate the wider sports chairs. Access – at the time – required any athlete in sports chair to exit the building through the main entrance and encircle the court for entry.
The Parks and Recreation Department jumped at the chance to improve access, and, working with the Office of Diversity and Human Rights, utilized $22,500 of Parks Capital Improvement funds to retrofit the door to accommodate the wider sports wheelchairs. The retrofit is complete, and also features and automatic door opener. Mayor Richard J. Berry’s Office and Parks and Recreation are also teaming up to purchase new sports wheelchairs for use at City tennis facilities. With this new access at Jerry Cline, attracting national wheelchair events and tournaments may become much easier.
“Anytime we can improve access to our facilities, allowing a larger group of people to participate and enjoy our recreation facilities, it’s just thrilling,” said Mayor Richard Berry. “Inclusion for all in our community makes Albuquerque a better place to live.” For more information about Wednesday Wheelaround, contact The Jerry Cline Tennis and Recreation Center at (505) 224-6682. ####