Tom Lawrence - Tony Menefee

Project manager Tom Lawrence (left) and architect Tony Menefee updated city commissioners on plans for a six-court indoor tennis complex at the Rome Tennis Center Monday night. The budget for the project has grown from $4 million to nearly $5 million with a guaranteed maximum price to be established by the first of may. The facility has to be completed in time for the Atlantic Coast Conference championships in late April 2020. / Doug Walker

City commissioners got good news and bad news Monday night regarding the proposed covered tennis courts at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.

The bad news is that the project is going to cost closer to $5 million than the originally anticipated $4 million. The good news, from Finance Director Sheree Shore is that by refunding remaining costs associated with the Stonebridge Golf course and issuing a single combined bond package, the annual payments could be less than what the city has been paying for the golf course and West Third Street tennis facility.

With escalating construction costs, the budget now looks more than $4,976,500. City Manager Sammy Rich, project manager Tom Lawrence and architect Tony Menefee all indicated they hope to be in a position to establish a final maximum cost figure for the project by the first of May to coincide with the anticipated ground breaking. Once that price is established, Rich said he would come back to the city commission for a formal vote on bonds to finance the project.

"The first priority is that you have a competition venue that, when you step inside, is second to none," architect Menefee said. "I'm an ACC member institution alumni (Virginia Tech) and I can't wait to come up here and see the ACC tournament."

The new covered courts need to be complete in time for the Rome Tennis Center to host the 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference tennis championships scheduled for April. The ACC tournament was played in Rome in 2017 when the ACC moved the event out of Cary, North Carolina as part of a protest over the state's law requiring people in publicly-owned buildings to use restrooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificate, a law that has since been repealed.

Lawrence said that after the 2017 ACC tournament, he was at the NCAA championships in Athens and run into several of the ACC coaches and asked them what they thought about the Rome Tennis Center. "They couldn't have said better things.  They loved it," Lawrence said.

The timeline for the work calls for the final design work to be completed by the end of March, final pricing developed in conjunction with the general contractor BM&K Construction & Engineering out of Braselton, Georgia, during the month of April with construction starting in May. The courts would be finished in February, well in advance of the ACC championships.

Commissioner Wendy Davis said the change in budget was "not an insignificant increase" and was concerned about the impact a full heating and air-conditioning system might have on utility bills. Lawrence explained that construction a steel building would have twice the lifespan of an architectural fabric building and cost $110,000 less.

Commissioner Evie McNiece explained that the use of heating and air-conditioning would be relatively minimal since the building would only be used when the weather prohibited play outdoors.

The indoor courts would be located at the northwest corner of the complex, closes to the intersection of the Armuchee Connector and Old Dalton Road.