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Legislature releases legal opinion on tennis court appropriation

By Kirsten Swann 11:25 AM December 18, 2013

A legal services memo from the Legislative Affairs Agency says spending $4.4 million in state funds to construct a new Turnagain tennis facility could be unconstitutional.

ANCHORAGE – An opinion published Monday by a state legislative counsel calls into question $4.4 million approved by the Anchorage Assembly to build a multipurpose tennis court complex in West Anchorage.

The funding came from the Legislature in May as part of a $37 million Project 80s appropriation — money intended to renovate and repair existing municipal facilities. The Alaska Tennis Association had originally lobbied lawmakers for $7.2 million to build the Turnagain tennis courts, but after the money was included in the Project 80s appropriation, Assembly members began a months-long debate about whether the funds should be used to construct a new facility or renovate other local recreational buildings, like the Ben Boeke Ice Arena.

With the majority of the original $37 million already appropriated by the municipality, the discussion focused on the remaining $10.5 million. While tennis association supporters advocated using the money to build the originally proposed facility, others proposed buying an existing court complex or forgoing the project altogether.

But Hilary Martin, a legislative counsel with the legal services division of the Legislative Affairs Agency, believes spending the money on new construction could be unconstitutional.

In a Monday memorandum published at the request of Anchorage Sen. Berta Gardner, Martin said the original funding request indicated the tennis complex would be an expansion of the Dempsey-Anderson arena.

“If the money is to be used for construction of a new facility to house tennis courts, this would likely not fit within the purpose of the appropriation,” Martin wrote. “A new building does not seem to me to be deferred and critical maintenance. A new building would also not seem to be a Project 80s building.”

Despite the legal opinion, Tuesday the Assembly voted to spend $4.4 million on the construction of a new Turnagain recreational facility. The remainder of the state appropriation would be spent on improvements to the Sullivan Arena and the Ben Boeke and Dempsey-Anderson Ice Arenas.

Click here to view the entire legal opinion.

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