Let Burling Lowrey take another look at the number of tennis courts at 16th and Kennedy in the wake of the Sovran Bank/D.C. National Tennis Classic {"Land Grab at Rock Creek Stadium," Close to Home, Aug. 9}. He will find that the 15 clay courts remain unchanged and that five new Deco Turf II hard courts, the surface used for the U.S. Open, have been added. In addition, the existing five hard courts and the stadium court were recovered with Deco Turf II, which will allow Washington to retain its annual men's Grand Prix tournament.

Lowrey states correctly that the five new courts were built for the tournament -- with private funds raised by the Washington Area Tennis Patrons Foundation -- but the minute the pros left Washington, sharpened up for the Open, the courts started year-round duty for the rest of us, the hundreds of amateur aspiring and recreational tennis players who use the Rock Creek tennis facility, as well as for the community programs provided by the Tennis Patrons for youths, the handicapped and the elderly in the Washington area.

The limited number of courts available to the Tennis Patrons at the Rock Creek site has made it impossible to conduct a National Junior Tennis League program and after-school program there. When the Washington Tennis Center is completed next year, the after-school tennis programs for youths in the neighborhood schools will be conducted at the new center. These programs alone would result in hundreds of youths' utilizing the courts daily in the fall and spring after school. It is anticipated that many of these youths will also participate in the National Junior Tennis League programs that are conducted in the summer. The funding for these programs, incidentally, comes primarily from the annual professional tournament, which provides more than half the Tennis Patrons Foundation's annual operating budget.

The additional courts at the new tennis center would be used not only to meet the increased demand of the general public and of Tennis Patrons' programs but also to accommodate existing tennis leagues that are now restricted because of the lack of available court time. The Federal Recreation Tennis League and Senior Tennis League, for example, limit their playing schedule because there are not enough courts to service both the leagues and the general public.

Lowrey also claims that the Washington Tennis Center has "gobbled up a rather large chunk of recreational space." In actuality, the tennis center project merely forced the relocation of one softball field from the left-hand side of Morrow Drive to the right side.

Lowrey states that the tennis center plan has been "railroaded" through without the approval of several agencies. This also is inaccurate. The concept of the Washington Tennis Center came into existence almost two years ago. Since its inception, the staffs of the center and the WATPF have been working closely with the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, the Fine Arts Commission, Guest Service, Inc., and various local and community groups to develop a tennis center that will benefit the entire community. The concept of the center has strong support from the mayor and other key individuals and community organizations, as well as tennis enthusiasts, throughout the Washington area.

The center will benefit tennis players as well as spectators. But, more important, the real winners in this entire project are the children of the community, who will have the opportunity to learn the game and gain expertise on two different surfaces. At a time when there is such concern about the lack of competitive American tennis players, the Washington Tennis Center project will help foster the skills necessary to reverse this trend. -- Jonathan Sloat is coordinator of the Washington Tennis Center and a past president of the Washington Area Tennis Patrons Foundation.