The city of Atlanta has rejected a recommendation for Agape Tennis Academy to manage its five tennis centers, meaning the process to award the contract could start over.
Aug. 11, when the centers’ one-year contract with Universal Tennis Management (also known as Universal Tennis Academy) expired, the city’s parks and recreation department temporarily managed the facilities, including two in Buckhead.
At its Sept. 8 meeting, the Atlanta City Council voted 14-1 to discard, or file, a recommendation from the city's procurement department to award the contract to Agape Tennis Academy. In a request for proposals (RFP) process, Agape won the bid over United, which has managed the five centers since 2010. District 10 Councilwoman Andrea Boone dissented.
District 8 Councilman J.P. Matzigkeit, whose district includes the two Buckhead tennis centers (Chastain Park and Bitsy Grant), motioned to file the Agape contract.
“I voted that way because I thought it was in the best interest of the city and my constituents,” he said.
Agape and Universal were the only two companies seeking the new contract in the most recent RFP process. With Agape's recommendation being discarded, the city could start the RFP process over again.
Universal had its nine-year contract with the city expire May 11, 2019, when Atlanta officials indicated they were leaning toward awarding the new contract to Agape. But it got a 90-day extension to Aug. 11, 2019 while undergoing the protest/appeal process with the city in an effort to win the new contract, which it ultimately won.
During the protest/appeal period, residents, including players, installed “Keep UTA” signs in their yards and started two change.org online petitions signed by 3,524 adults and 624 students, respectively, requesting the council keep Universal as the city’s center management provider.
Universal managed the Chastain Park, Bitsy Grant, Sharon Lester, Washington Park and Joseph McGhee tennis centers at Chastain, Atlanta Memorial, Piedmont, Washington and White parks, respectively. It also manages the tennis centers at Blackburn Park, Briarlake Baptist Church and Georgia State University’s Clarkston and Dunwoody campuses, all in DeKalb County, and the James Creek Tennis Center in Cumming.
Agape, which is based at the DeKalb Tennis Center, which it manages, also manages the three Macon-Bibb County Tennis Centers. Tim Noonan, Universal’s co-founder and one of its six partners, said he felt the city of Atlanta’s scoring for the new contract may have been unfair in awarding it to Agape considering the level of management experience Universal has over Agape.
Of the council’s vote, which didn’t compare Agape to Universal, Noonan said, “They weren’t really ruling anything about us, but we feel like it was the right thing (to do). There are so many questions about this process that both the citizens and (Universal Tennis Academy) have.”
Amy Pazahanick, Agape’s owner, she said she believes the company deserves to manage Atlanta’s tennis centers.
“We are hoping to get the legislation brought back to the council for a vote so we can pass it through and move forward with executing our vision for the city of Atlanta’s tennis centers,” she said. “There’s … multiple reasons why we won the procurement process twice, and we’re going to raise that level of awareness (for) that. I believe it’s due to our merits and our vision to run the city of Atlanta’s tennis centers.”
Pazahanick said she hopes the city does not go through another lengthy RFP process to award the contract.
“We just hope the city will do what’s right and listen to the voices of folks on both sides,” she said. “We have a lot of voices and we really want Agape to manage the facilities because we care about the future of Atlanta tennis and the youth, and we want that sooner than later. Re-charting the process from the beginning hurts the entire community, because that’s a minimum of a six- to eight-month process.”
The new contract lasts for nine years, with optional renewals coming after the first five years and then again two years later.