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June 19, 2014 02:55 PM
SR_GreetingSANTA ROSA, New Mexico – Travelers along Interstate 40 often stop in this town two hours east of Albuquerque. Many pull over to gas up. For others, the draw is the celebrated Blue Hole, a natural, clear lake more than 80 feet deep. It’s a quiet, pretty spot, immensely attractive year-round for Scuba divers and sightseers alike.
It’s a sure bet that those same visitors will not stop at an immensely unattractive spot not far from the Blue Hole. Standing forlornly on Fourth Street, the main drag in downtown Santa Rosa, is one of the worst-looking tennis courts on Earth.
The surface of the court, a dreary turquoise in color, is ruptured and buckled as if repeatedly
SR_Downtown_Courtstruck by mortar rounds. The lines have all but disappeared. The net is a rusted metal affair that appears to be the same sort of fencing used in agricultural pens.  A wobbly and barely standing chain-link fence completes the gruesome picture.  
“It’s a real eyesore,” Rudy Sanchez, who lives across the street from the downtown tennis court and was born in Santa Rosa in 1949, said.  Sanchez recalled when the surface of the court was painted. “A guy used a roller to do it. And when he finished, he had some paint left over so he painted his truck.”
It may be hard for some to imagine, but in the 1970s that downtown court and four other tennis courts in this farming and ranching community of 2,700 people were frequently busy with players. No one plays tennis here anymore. In fact, you can’t even find a racket or tennis balls for sale in Santa Rosa.  
The Santa Rosa’s tennis situation is not too different from other small towns in northern New Mexico.  Once upon a time, several little communities had a tennis court, maybe even two of them.  Many of those courts have disappeared or are deteriorating badly. 
SR_WeedsThere used to be two courts at Park Lake, in the city’s recreation area, close to the Blue Hole. Those were replaced some years back with a batting cage and a parking area.
The two other courts in Santa Rosa survive—barely—at the high school. The weeds on those courts rise almost net-high, that same metal net as the court downtown. The last people anyone can recall using the high schools tennis were some East Indians who held cricket practices there.
“It’s really a shame what has happened here with tennis,” said Sister Ann Kaufman, who has lived in Santa Rosa since 1974.  “I used to play at the Park Lake courts and it was great fun and they’re gone.” Sister Ann reflected on this as she stood beside what is left of the single court downtown.  “The Park Lake courts are gone and this awful thing stays.”
The downtown court was erected with federal funds, as were the two courts at the high school. Many officials in Santa Rose use that as the reason why the courts remain in place and why the ground they stand on has not been scraped clean. OK, but why not repair those courts?  
“This is an impoverished community,” says M.E. Sprengelmeyer, who publishes the town’s weekly newspaper, the Guadalupe County Communicator. The big sport in Santa Rosa is high school football, according to Sprenglemeyer.  Any extra school district money goes to help the football program. The high school team has won three state championships in the last four years. Said Sprengelmeyer, “Football is king here.”  
Tennis may never have been king in Santa Rosa, but it was definitely popular here once, particularly about 40 years ago as a tennis boom swept across America.  Joe Blea, a math teacher at the Santa Rosa High, gave lessons during the summer and there was, briefly, a tennis team at the school. Tennis was offered in phys ed classes at the high school and small tournaments used to be held at the downtown court.   
Then slowly things went downhill. Blea moved away and no one was around to continue what he had started.  The courts were used less and less. Any maintenance on them never happened.  
The decline of the tennis courts in Santa Rosa was recently the focus of a column in the Communicator, by Davy Delgado. “When former superintendents said they would not re-surface the tennis courts,” Delgado wrote, “their excuses ranged from ‘Nobody uses them anymore’ to ‘I’ll ask the school board for authorization to do it.’ ”
“Kids need and deserve recreation,” Delgado said.
Richard Delgado is tourism and economic development director for the city. He says he worries that Santa Rosa kids spend so much time indoors.  “Tennis is a great individual sport and there are kids here who would love it.”
A dozen onetime kids from Santa Rosa responded to the Communicator article. They wrote on the newspaper’s Facebook page how much fun they had on the courts when they were young how it was a shame those courts were in such poor shape.
“So many good memories of playing tennis,” Diane Garcia Piro said. “Of all the updating and improvements I see it would be nice to see these improved as well. Hope there are programs for the children.”
 “I remember as a young girl watching mom & dad play tennis,” Estela Tenorio-Thompson, added. “I wish there were monies & interest to bring back tennis to Santa Rosa.”
Regrettably, tennis is not likely to be brought back to Santa Rosa any time soon, Richard Delgado said.  “First of all, those courts were poorly designed.  The foundations are not good.  That’s why they have all come apart they way they have. They would have to be dug up and redone.”
Until that happens, the answer for many in town is to simply hope.
“A well-rounded community needs to provide activities,” Dan Flores, who is a former superintendent of the schools in Santa Rosa, said.  “I think if we had tennis courts, it would be a good thing for this town or any town. There just isn’t any extra money.  But who knows. We might have an oil boom here one day.”
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