Austin public tennis center goes green with ‘Pharr-out’ renovation plan

Austin public tennis center goes green with ‘Pharr-out’ renovation

Pharr Tennis Center Austin
Construction begins this summer or fall. Pharr Tennis Center/Instagram

The City of Austin is acing its latest Central Austin renovation project.

Pharr Tennis Center, the 46-year-old community tennis facility located 4201 Brookview Rd. adjacent to the Mueller development, will get an overhaul because, as the city puts it, “the tennis courts have reached the end of their service life and need to be modernized.”

With the sweeping upgrades, Pharr Tennis Center is set to become the city’s first project to earn two key green-building certifications: SITES, which focuses on protecting ecosystems in builds, and LEED, the most widespread green-building rating system in the world.

With the $2.7 million renovation — funded through a 2018 bond that allocated $4 million to the tennis center — the center is seeking SITES Silver level certification, as well as LEED Gold certification, and includes some pretty major upgrades.

Led by Austin firm Kirksey Architecture — which boasts more than 38 million square feet of LEED-certified projects — the renovation will include the replacement of eight asphalt tennis courts, changes to make the center more accessible (including adding compliant restrooms in the Pro Shop building and providing accessible parking), and the introduction of several storm-water-management systems that will do double duty as eye-catching water features, including a Studio Balcones-designed rain garden that will address drainage issues on the property.

Through the city’s Art in Public Places program, several local artists will create permanent artwork for the center.

Additional green updates the city is making to the public Pharr Tennis Center include managing 100 percent of stormwater onsite, improving soil health, planting native and adapted landscaping elements, protecting heritage trees, providing spaces that support health and wellness, adding energy-efficient sports lighting, replacing fencing and windscreens, and using sustainable materials and construction processes, which includes salvaging concrete slabs that previously covered the onsite heritage tree root systems being repurposed as aesthetic tree protection.

The city says several other initiatives are being considered that may help the project achieve higher levels of LEED certification. Those include the installation of solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, and separate energy metering.  

Construction on the Pharr Tennis Center upgrades will begin this summer or fall, with changes expected to be completed within eight months. The center will be closed to tennis play during that time, with an anticipated reopening date of summer or fall 2022.

The Pharr Tennis Center is one of four municipal tennis centers in Austin offering year-round opportunities to play. It also offers supervised tennis activities through community programs for all ages. 

After years of research into soil, water, vegetation, materials, and human health, the SITES program was originally created in Austin through a collaboration between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden. Eight of the world’s 64 SITES-certified projects are located in Texas, with the Pharr Tennis Center set to be the fourth SITES-certified project in Austin.

LEED-certified buildings — which focus on energy, water, materials, and a project’s interior and exterior environments as they relate to green building — have been adopted by the City of Austin as the minimum standard of sustainability for new construction projects.

“LEED-certified buildings are documented to have lower carbon emissions, create less waste, consume fewer resources, maintain better indoor air quality, and provide social and economic benefits to surrounding communities,” says a Kirksey Architecture release about the Pharr Tennis Center renovations.