Atlanta Announces Contract for City Tennis Court Operations

I’ve long written that the cash-strapped city of Atlanta needed to start getting more aggressive at privatization and competitive contracting to help deal with its fiscal challenges (see here and here, for example). Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported some small, but significant, movement in that direction:

Facing budget cuts, the Atlanta City Council has authorized a private company to take over management of the city’s five tennis courts. […]

The move also means that within the next three months, the tennis centers will reopen on Fridays and will offer additional services, such as programs for seniors and those with special needs. UTM will charge fees for those services, according to the release. However, court and lesson fees will remain the same unless UTM receives approval from the city council, City of Atlanta Spokeswoman Cathering Woodling said.

Universal Tennis Management, which also operates as Universal Tennis Academy, has a contract with the city for five years with two, two-year renewal options, according to the release.

I know that Mayor Shirley Franklin’s administration has taken an extremely cautious approach to privatization—some might even say quite skeptical—but this seems like one of those win-wins that I hope gives them more comfort in thinking bigger. In this case, the city and its residents are going to get demonstrably more for less—more days of operation, more services— through contracting out.

I sincerely hope this is just a start, with more to come. After all, public tennis courts are a convenient amenity but providing them is hardly a core function of government. It’s time for the city to start looking for higher-level privatization opportunities in areas like vehicle fleet management, waste collection and disposal, payroll, accounting, IT, etc., etc. if they really want to start to attack the cost side of the equation.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2009
Reason Foundation’s Privatization Research and Commentary