CONSIDER PARTNERSHIP TO KEEP DOME IN PLACE

January 29, 2002 11:00 pm

Eastern Oregon University should not be so quick to tear down its 13-year-old tennis dome and ship it off to Ontario until it explores the possibility of keeping the structure in place in a partnership with the City of La Grande.

Eastern feels the time has come to get rid of its dome, which provides year-round cover for two tennis courts.The domes fabric roof is battered by the weather and likely would need replacing before long.

Treasure Valley Community College apparently is waiting in the wings to claim the facility, which sometimes has been called the Gilbert Dome in recognition of a past Eastern president, or the Peggy Dome in honor of former EOU athletic director Peggy Anderson. The Ontario college will be given the dome if it disassembles and removes it.

Wed feel more comfortable with this plan if Eastern had a field house on the drawing boards and indoor tennis courts could be housed there. But the university has no plans to build a field house.

The La Grande area desperately needs indoor recreational facilities for use by the public. Many people get cabin fever in the winter. The snow starts falling and places to go for fun and exercise are limited to the citys swimming pool, the bowling center or athletic club/weight rooms.

The university might not be able to justify the cost of repairs, upkeep and heating to keep the dome available for students. But what about a college-community partnership, in which Eastern and the city would share expenses? The indoor courts would remain available for college students, but citizens would also benefit from having access to the facility. Some type of coin-operated metering system could help pay for upkeep.

For years the university and La Grande High School have cooperated in the use of Community Stadium on the Eastern campus for high school and college-level football games. This spirit of cooperation could be expanded to include the city, allowing indoor tennis to continue even during a time of year when the snow is falling, the wind is blustery and the sun goes down early.

KEEP CLOSE WATCH

It wasnt too many years ago when the state-run Hilgard Work-Study Center, west of La Grande, saw some of its youth-offender residents hiking away from the camp on a fairly regular basis. Some of these boys would walk a few miles down the road to Perry, where they might break into a residents home or steal a car.

The spate of escapes raised concerns in Perry and La Grande, and the state took the issue seriously. The result is that escapes from what is now known as the Oregon Youth Authoritys River Bend facility at Hilgard are practically non-existent until Monday, when three young men escaped.

Thankfully, state police, sheriff and River Bend authorities were able to apprehend the teen-agers within a half-mile of the camp. River Bend will want to tighten up its procedures following the short-lived escape of these young men.