The Department of Parks and Recreation announced Tuesday that it plans to slash the cost of an annual adult tennis permit from $200 to $100, after years of complaints that the high price of permits was shutting out lower-income New Yorkers from the sport.

The fee reduction marks an about-face from the Parks Department, which as recently as this summer defended it as necessary to fund repairs and improvements to the city's public courts.

Until the early years of the Bloomberg Administration, adult permits cost $50. In 2003, fees went up to $100—they doubled again in 2011. These increases corresponded with a decline in permit purchases, which dropped almost 50 percent between 2010 to 2012.

Critics of the permit increases said they undermined public health efforts to encourage exercise and ran counter to the Parks' Department mission to make park facilities as accessible as possible to the general public. They also pointed out that the fee hikes did little to increase revenues, as they were largely cancelled out by the drop in membership.

Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates criticized the $200 fee in an interview with Gothamist this summer. "The mission of the Parks Department is to provide services, not to collect revenue," he said. "It is discriminatory and it prevents middle class and poor people from experiencing tennis."

The city also announced that it intends to open online registration for first-time permit buyers.

"As host of the U.S. Open, New York City is one of the great global tennis cities—and with 550 tennis courts, there are opportunities to play in nearly every neighborhood," NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchel J. Silver said in a press release. "Now we're advancing our vision for equity and accessibility by cutting adult fees in half, and making registration easier than ever."

City Council Member Corey Johnson, who chairs the Committee on Health, applauded the proposed fee cuts. "These changes make tennis more affordable and more accessible, and they're truly an asset to the health and happiness of our citizens," he said.

Silver also said the city will increase the number of sites where New Yorkers can purchase permits from six to 14.

Under the current fee structure, seniors over 62 and youth under 18 can purchase discounted permits—$20 for the former, $10 for the latter. Permits prices are 10 percent off for ID NYC holders.

According to the Parks Department, the policies will take effect in early 2017, after a period of public comment.