PALMER — Colony High School is benefitting from a father’s desire to see his son succeed.
Kaden Ketchum is a junior at Colony High and one of the Knights standout tennis players. Kaden’s father Matt partners with Scott Hessinger at K&H Civil Constructors, and was able to repair the Colony High School tennis courts to a competitive level after decades of neglect.
After tennis was revived in Mat-Su Borough School District schools, Matt Ketchum noticed two things. The Colony tennis teams were practicing in downtown Palmer and with only three courts, suffered inevitable scheduling conflicts with Palmer’s tennis program. Ketchum also noticed his son noisily practicing in the driveway without adequate courts.
“For tennis you’ve kind of got to have a court and there was plenty of times he was bouncing off the garage at the house and so I was motivated,” said Ketchum.
Ketchum coordinated with head coach Susan Brunner and began exploring the options for what it would cost to repair the surface at Colony High School.
“She’d been pushing to get something done here for years but it was always kind of funding and it was participation and it was, oh how are we going to do it?” said Ketchum. “Why aren’t these ready to go? You’d think that the school would use them so the coach talked to me about it and I came over here and looked at the surface and I said you know it’s repairable.”
Ketchum consulted with a company that produces NOVA asphalt treatments for tennis courts used around the country that specifically does well in cold weather. Brunner applied for a $20,000 grant through the United States Tennis Association and Ketchum got to work figuring out how to repair the courts. During the USTA application, Brunner had to answer specific questions about previous tennis court projects from the selected contractor. Ketchum and K&H had never done a tennis court before.
“We were quite sure that we could figure it out. YouTube’s kind of amazing,” said Ketchum. “We were quite confident that we could do it and then also getting technical support from the company that supplied this.”
After approaching the Mat-Su Borough School District, a bid was put out rather than a sole source contract. K&H bid the project at around $75,000 and was awarded the contract to repair the surface. Ketchum’s crew removed the chain links in the fencing surrounding the courts to excavate debris around the pavement. K&H then blasted the 2400 lineal feet of cracks in the asphalt, vacuumed them out and hand picked debris and weeds from the cracks before laying down herbicide and a recommended product to fill the cracks at the surface. In total, four coats of material were laid out and squeegeed onto the court to make it level, lined, and colored in Colony green. After filling cracks and scraping fill over them, two acrylic layers were laid down after being mixed in 55-gallon drums and moved in five gallon buckets. The top layers were mixed with a silica sand to allow for precise leveling of the surface before the paint was laid down in green and grey. As part of the USTA requirements, not only were singles and doubles lines for high school competitions laid down, but additional youth lines. For under 10-year-old competitors, court 2 has an additional set of lines to create a smaller court over the existing nets. On court 1, a second set of additional lines were set down to be used by even younger tennis players, playing on a 36-foot-wide court on each side of the permanent netting using a temporary net.
“It’s a really consistent smooth surface and then the lines is something that I’m pretty happy about,” said Ketchum. “Wanting to see him and other kids just have as good an experience as they possibly can and facilities kind of can help for that.”
Ketchum hopes to help add a turf baseball field to the Colony campus in the coming years. Kaden is a standout for the Colony High and American Legion Post 15 Pioneers baseball teams in the summer, and his father Matt has always been involved in supporting his sports addictions. While the Ketchums have a backyard hockey rink for skating and room to throw the baseball, new facilities were required if the young tennis players in MSBSD were to have a chance to succeed.
“I believe that high school sports is part of the experience of high school. You learn a lot more than just classroom stuff,” said Ketchum. “If you’re a good teammate, I think you’ll be a good employee one of these days so those are the values of that and I enjoyed doing it.”
The administration from MSBSD came to Colony for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday and Ketchum was overwhelmed with the support from the district. Not only are the courts accessible to Colony’s tennis teams and gym classes, but the tennis playing public as well.
“In hindsight, it was a ton of fun. It turned out great, people really appreciate it from the kids to administrators to coaches,” said Ketchum. “Long term, that’s why I’m in the business that I’m in probably in the first place. When you build something it’s fun seeing what you’ve done on the day that you toiled… It’s also fun to see four, five, six years down the line what you put your time into is an asset and everybody gets the benefit of it and uses it.”