Rampart rebuilds more than just a tennis team by renovating home courts

March 19, 2014 Updated: March 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm
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The Rampart girls tennis team gather their belongings near the newly painted backboard after practice Monday, March 17, 2014. John Mandico, Stephen Wilklow, and the rest of the parents for the Rampart girls' tennis team undertook redoing the tennis courts themselves. They rebuilt and painted new backboards and a storage shed and painted several of the bleachers blue. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette

At some point, any team, no matter the sport, will be faced with a rebuilding project.

Rampart has taken that to a new level. And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that the girls' tennis team returned only three letter-winners.

We're talking rebuilding in its truest, blue-collar form.

Grab a broom, pull some weeds, tear down warped and beat-down backboards - probably dating back to the school's inception in 1982 - and replace with new ones with fresh, blue paint.

That's just for starters.

"Really, we have the most amazing parent volunteers," second-year Rams coach Kristine Barrett said. "They stepped up and did whatever they could. But this isn't just for girls' tennis. This is for the whole community. We recognize we don't have many outdoor courts, and we want people to bring their families to use the courts on weekends."

On Thursday, annual resurfacing will commence at Rampart. Usually, that type of work isn't done until summertime.

Barrett likes to think the countless hours of work to beautify the courts' surroundings, spearheaded by parents John Mandico and Stephen Wilklow, accelerated the process to repair the courts much earlier.

"The district has seen all of this, and with them coming out before spring break, that's huge," Barrett said. "We're not football or what's considered a major sport, but I think our sport is so important because it's a lifelong sport. You can play until you're 90."

Mandico, who four years ago retired from the Air Force, recognized the Rampart courts needed work. That realization came without looking at the asphalt, which takes its toll from the extremes of southern Colorado weather.

"The tennis facilities Kristine inherited when she got here were in bad shape," said Mandico, whose daughter, Christina, plays No. 3 doubles. "The backboards were probably original from when the school was built, and they had fallen into disrepair. The shed had graffiti on it. It looked like the slums."

Mandico admittedly "begged" for deals on plywood and tools - including 432 new nuts and bolts - at such local hardware stores as Home Depot and Lowe's. Through support there, he estimated a savings of nearly $1,000 from the school's budget.

Wilklow, whose daughter, Delaney, plays No. 2 singles and is one of four freshmen, put his carpentry skills to work, helping to renovate a once-dilapidated and mice-infested shed, now complete with a turf floor and shelves that could be the envy of other schools.

"This took more time than I anticipated, but at the end of the day, it's not about me or the many parent volunteers. At the end of the day, the people who benefit are the students."

Through the hands-on work, Barrett already notices that pride spilling over to her team, itself taking ownership of maintaining the grounds and keeping things nice.

"This kind of work, it does build that community," Barrett said. "Everybody starts to know each other better. Parents just don't drop off their kid and leave. They watch and help out. I do feel like this team is much closer already than what I saw last season."

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