Jekyll Island Authority officially reopens historic tennis center
Club Hotel invested in historic building; new convention center is under construction nearby
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Georgia Times- Union
By Terry Dickson
November 16, 2010

JEKYLL ISLAND - The Jekyll Island Authority's ceremonial
scissors may start showing some metal fatigue given the
workout they're getting.

Just weeks after a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the
$1.75 million Great Dunes Park, the authority cut
a ribbon at noon Monday officially opening the
renovated Morgan Tennis Center in its new role as
a banquet and meeting hall.

Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks promised the crowd there's more to come.

"I hope you're able to be at many more of these ceremonies in a short time frame,'' Hooks said.

Indeed, as most of the authority met in coats and ties, men in hard hats and heavy-duty work clothes were tearing down the old shopping center to make room for a new one. And across the street from the shopping center, crews have already begun picking apart the convention center to make way for its $30 million replacement.

Hooks said there will be some inconvenience, but he cited the island's "It's all good,'' slogan to urge patience.

Bob Krueger, chairman of the authority board, recalled his first visit to the island while he was serving on a carrier at Mayport. As he drove through the historic district, Krueger said, "I thought what a shame. Tattered curtains in the windows.''

Krueger said he couldn't believe then the state was letting Jekyll's historic district go to "wrack and ruin,'' and little did he know the role he would play in its recovery 40 years later.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the authority's partner in the renovation, will use the Morgan Center to more than double its capacity for meetings. The Morgan will hold about 350 and has a full kitchen. With its limited space, the Club Hotel had turned away some business in the past, Kevin Runner, managing partner of the hotel, said last year.

The Club Hotel agreed to pick up at least half the $3 million cost of renovation with the state paying the rest.

The Morgan has already hosted the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association and the Federal Reserve Board held its Atlanta regional meeting there this month.

Runner said the first time he entered the Morgan Tennis Center 10 to 15 years ago it was to play tennis, and he had envisioned a facility that could be accommodate tennis and meetings. It didn't turn out that way, but everyone seems pleased with the results of the renovations.

As he spoke, light streamed in through skylights in a ceiling high enough for a lob shot. Old crossed tennis rackets hang over the exits and the tongue-and-groove boards still line the walls.

John Hunter, director of history for Jekyll, said, "Historic places don't survive by being historic.''

Stakeholders have to realize their importance and take steps to save them as they did with the Morgan, he said.

Built in 1929, the center was the second indoor tennis court on the island and was later named to honor J.P. Morgan Jr. for his support of sports there and his chairmanship of the Jekyll Island Club.

When the center was closed in 2001, its skylights were leaking and termites had eaten away at some of its timbers, Hunter said.

Hunter said he feared nothing would be done, but it is restored in excellent condition and accessible and available to the public, he said.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405