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Courts Nobel cause

Oliver and Dolores Williamson stand in front of the tennis courts named after them in Lake Nebagamon last week. After Oliver Williamson won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, the Superior native and his wife looked for good causes to support. They decided to pay 75 percent of the cost for resurfacing the aging tennis courts in Lake Nebagamon, where they spend two months every year. Since the work was finished this summer, those who drive by say they have seen a lot more activity at the courts. (Maria Loc...

The tennis courts in Lake Nebagamon are prize-worthy. Gone are the cracks with grass straggling through them. The new surface is smooth, green and soft.

"This is beautiful," said Jean Peterson of Sand Lake. "It's a joy to see a great tennis court here in Lake Nebagamon."

The transformation took place this year thanks to a Nobel Prize winner with local ties.

"I guess it was late last year when out of the blue Oliver Williamson called me and made his offer," said Village President Bob Anderson. "He offered $35,000 to fund 75 percent of the renovation costs of the courts"

Williamson, a Superior native who now lives in California, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics. He and his wife, Dolores, spend two months every summer in Lake Nebagamon at the family cabin. And they like to play tennis.

"They're a good match," Peterson said. But for years the Williamsons traveled to Barnes to find a good court to play on. The Lake Nebagamon courts, built more than 30 years ago, were showing age.

"For the last five years we've been doing fix and repair, fix and repair, but everything's been going downhill," said Roger Drolsum of Lake Nebagamon.

This spring, volunteers and contractors ripped everything off and built the new surface from scratch.

Now, the migration is toward Lake Nebagamon. People come from Brule, Iron River and even Barnes to play on the new Oliver and Dolores Williamson Tennis Courts.

"Now we see it being used all the time," said Jo Schneider of Sand Lake.

"I think the word is out that we have a nice court over here," said Village Board Member Howard Levo.

That draws more activity to nearby Otto Finell Baseball Park, as well, Anderson said.

It's a great gift to the Lake Nebagamon area, Peterson added.

The Nobel Prize was a windfall, Williamson said.

"We made several contributions," he said. "But the village always figured into it."

He and his wife discussed possible ways to contribute in Lake Nebagamon and settled on the tennis courts.

"Being that we liked to play, that the courts weren't in good shape," Williamson said. "It would give us pleasure to resume playing here and we had every reason to believe others would get enjoyment out of it too."

Bill Huberty of Northland Signs donated the sign for the courts. Volunteers pitched in to plant it.

"This project is huge for a community like ours and it is one more to add to the list of good things that have happened in the past year by the volunteerism and generosity of the community," Anderson said.

Last winter, a new skating rink and warming house were donated by the family of the late Herb Moss. A new skate park has sprung up near the village fire hall with the help of donations from individuals and memorials. Now, the tennis courts are ready for action again.

"It's not just a Lake Nebagamon thing, it is a community that is much larger than just the village," Anderson said. "They are always welcome here to play."