Compass: Indoor tennis court facility is an opportunity Anchorage should seize

When I first heard the Alaska Legislature had approved a proposal from the Alaska Tennis Association to fund the construction of a multi-sports public recreation facility that would include six indoor tennis courts and two basketball courts that can be adapted for volleyball and badminton, I thought now this is a community with a vision.

In a community with more than 11,000 active tennis players - many of whom try and get on the court as much as they can in a very short outdoor tennis season - the addition of a public indoor, year-round tennis facility is a smart move.

But I understand there is some opposition to the project. and I hope you will hear me out on why I think this public indoor recreational facility will be an incredibly positive addition to your community.

I am a public park player and having access to public courts and free instruction absolutely changed my life. Tennis has given me so much. If you build this new indoor facility on the Dempsey Anderson Ice Arena campus, you will make a meaningful difference in the lives of your citizens - young and old - through tennis and increased physical activity.

I am a big believer that tennis is a lifetime sport and at 69 years old, I know what a powerful motivator tennis has been in my life. In communities all across the country from my hometown in Long Beach, Calif., to Springfield, Mo., to Lancaster, Pa., I have seen how tennis brings people together for exercise and for socialization. This lifetime sport has spawned generations of physically active, socially interactive communities.

And there is no reason Anchorage should not become one of those communities.

Through presentations to the legislature and community councils, the Alaska Tennis Association has been transparent about its plans. At the heart of this proposal is a public facility that will provide low-cost instruction, affordable court time for both adults and children and do so on a year-round, non-interrupted basis.

There are a dozen schools within the Anchorage School District located within a two-mile radius of the location of this proposed facility. It is not a far stretch of one's imagination to look at the opportunities for keeping the kids from those schools more active if they had a place nearby to go play tennis, basketball and volleyball after school.

Building this facility is not about creating an opportunity for the next Roger Federer or Serena Williams - although wouldn't it be great if that happened! It is about providing low-cost access to a public recreation center facility for your community that will allow your citizens to get active and stay healthy. At a time when obesity rates among our youth are at staggering high levels this project is a major step in the right direction.

This is about creating long-term opportunities for your community to be better and stronger. Thanks to the grant from the Legislature the money is in place and now I hope you, the Assembly and the entire community, will step up and support this project. You have the opportunity to use your vision to significantly improve the enjoyment and well-being of the people in your community.

Tennis is a big part of my life and it has given me a platform to bring about change in my career and in my community. I don't know what my life would have been without tennis. It's a game changer.

I hope Anchorage will come together and support the development of the public indoor multi-sport recreation facility at Dempsey.

Billie Jean King won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 championships at Wimbledon. She is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian honor, and a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.