Serve It Up! | Sports Destination Management

Serve It Up!

Nov 09, 2018 | By: Peter Francesconi
Tennis Facilities Continue to Grow and Expand Throughout the Country

The sport of tennis has had some major investments in facilities recently. A few years ago, the U.S. Tennis Association opened its massive USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida, and that seems to have touched off a growth in large facilities around the country. While not quite on the same scale as the 100-court USTA venue, throughout the U.S., tennis facilities with dozens of courts continue to be built or expanded.

This growth in tennis facilities appears to be in anticipation of growth in the game, as tennis participation over the past few years can best be described as “stable.” As of year-end 2017, the Physical Activity Council says there are close to 18 million tennis players in the U.S., which is down about two percent from the year before.

But despite the slight decline, tournaments for all ages and abilities continue to thrive around the country and are being hosted at venues such as these. Hint: Many venues host both tennis and pickleball these days, so planners are also advised to look through the adjacent article on pickleball for even more ideas for tennis locations.

Photo courtesy of Butler County Visitors Bureau
Butler County, Ohio
Tennis has a number of places to call home in Butler County, including the Hepburn Tennis Courts at Miami University in Oxford, which has eight outdoor courts (six with lights) and a Daktronics remote scoreboard so fans can keep track of the matches.

The Riverside Athletic Club in Hamilton has a total of 12 courts — six are indoor hard courts, and there are four outdoor clay and two outdoor hard courts. “The indoor courts are where Miami University plays its home indoor matches,” says Dana McConnaughey, the sales manager for sports and events at the Butler County Visitors Bureau. The Riverside venue also has hosted a number of USTA-sanctioned junior tournaments.

The Court Yard SportsPlex in West Chester offers seven indoor and four outdoor tennis courts. In addition, Court Yard has recognized the growing demographic of pickleball and converts some of its courts for pickleball play, creating up to 14 indoor pickleball courts and playing host to several pickleball tournaments.

Butler County also has a pickleball-only venue, Lefferson Park in Middletown, which has 16 outdoor pickleball courts, 10 of which are lighted. Lefferson Park hosts the annual Middletown Senior Pickleball Tournament, sanctioned by the USAPA.

“There is a lot of support with people who are knowledgeable about both tennis and pickleball in our community,” says Tracy Kocher of the Visitors Bureau.

Chicago, Illinois
The city of Chicago has many places to play tennis, including courts in its massive public parks system (more on that in a minute). But the most recent tennis success was the international acclaim the city received for hosting the second annual Laver Cup event in September at the United Center. The three-day Laver Cup brought some of the world’s best pros together in a “Team World vs. Team Europe” competition, included such stars as the U.S.’s John Isner and champions Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. In the end, Team Europe successfully defended its title.

“We’ve held tennis events at the United Center before, but the Laver Cup exceeded our expectations,” says Kara Bachman, the executive director of the Chicago Sports Commission.

Chicago’s extensive parks system has 515 outdoor tennis courts in 130 parks, 13 of which have eight or more courts. The largest are Lincoln Park with 30 courts, Jackson Park with 24, Calumet Park with 16, Marquette Park with 14 and Grant Park with 12.

Another premier place for tennis is the Midtown Athletic Club, which has 16 courts and hosts a number of junior and adult events year-round. Midtown recently opened a hotel on the property, too, making it even more convenient for athletes and their families.

New in Chicago is the XS Tennis Village, a state-of-the-art center, with 27 indoor and outdoor tennis courts. XS Tennis was founded by Kamau Murray, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side and is a coach of 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens. This past summer, the XS Tennis Village hosted the Oracle Challenger Series.

Columbus, Georgia
When it comes to tennis in Columbus, it’s all about CORTA — the Columbus Regional Tennis Association. CORTA’s home base is at the award-winning Cooper Creek Tennis Center, which is one of the largest and best municipal tennis facilities in the country.

“Most of the tennis played in the area is here at Cooper Creek, which is located in a public park,” says Judy Pearce, the executive director of CORTA. The venue has a total of 55 courts — 39 clay courts (making it one of the top public clay-court facilities in the country), 12 hard courts and four 60-foot courts. In 2017, Tennis Industry magazine named Cooper Creek its Municipal Facility of the Year, the USTA honored Cooper Creek as its Facility of the Year, and CORTA was named the USTA’s Community Tennis Association of the Year.

Cooper Creek hosts local, regional, sectional and national tournaments. The courts are also home for the Columbus State University teams. “We host Special Olympic regional events here, and recently held the 55 and over USTA Georgia State Championships, with nearly 600 players,” Pearce says. Recently, when Hurricane Florence swept into the Carolina’s, Cooper Creek was asked to host the USTA 55 and Over League Southern Championships, originally slated to be in Asheville, North Carolina. Despite the late venue change, the tourney still drew about 550 players.

Photo courtesy of Conway CVB & Conway Area Chamber of Commerce
Conway, Arkansas
This past April, the city of Conway opened the Conway Tennis Center, with eight lighted outdoor hard courts and indoor/outdoor spectator viewing areas. “It’s a really nice, great-looking facility,” says Rachel Shaw, the CVB’s director of destination marketing. “The city Parks department does a great job managing and maintaining the facility.”

The Conway Area Tennis Association (CATA) helped to make the new tennis center a reality. CATA hosted a large, statewide event at the new center shortly after it opened, and in October held the high school state 3A championship.

“This is our first big tennis facility,” Shaw adds. “We have such great support in this community for tennis.” There also are eight courts at the University of Central Arkansas and five courts at Hendrix College.

Shaw says Conway, which is about 30 miles from Little Rock in central Arkansas, is very supporting of sports and sports venues. “A part of the hotel and restaurant tax is earmarked for the city’s Parks Department, for the purpose of building new sporting facilities,” she notes.

Photo courtesy of Greene County Tennis
Greene County, Tennessee
In 2004, tennis aficionados in Greene County decided it was time to organize and build their own public tennis facility, so they formed the Greene County Tennis Association and put together a public-private partnership. A $50,000 grant from the USTA acted as a catalyst for more federal grants and private and corporate donations, and in March 2007, the eight-court, lighted Greene County Tennis Center in Greeneville (with six hard courts and two clay courts), opened its doors.

“We started having tournaments right from the beginning,” says Helen Smith, the executive director of the GCTA and a member of the Greene County Partnership. The courts and facility were upgraded two years ago, with help from a grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “It’s really a club-level facility, which is open to the public,” she adds.

The tennis facility is home to a number of tournaments, including three USTA- sanctioned events for juniors, which draw from Tennessee and surrounding states. All five high schools in the area play their matches at the Greene County facility, too, and the venue hosts a number of high school regional and district tournaments.

Photo courtesy of Lexington County Recreation & Aging Commission
Lexington, South Carolina
Tennis is woven into the fabric of the community in Lexington County, South Carolina. The county’s Recreation & Aging Commission runs two major, top-notch tennis facilities, along with a number of other courts in other areas — all under the experienced leadership and dedication of Jorge Andrew, the director of operations. Andrew, a former Venezuelan Davis Cup player and captain who was on the pro tour for more than 10 years, is one of the few teaching professionals in the world to achieve Master Professional status in both the Professional Tennis Registry and the U.S. Professional Tennis Association.

The Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center has 30 lighted courts, with a championship-size stadium court that can hold about 500 spectators. There are also seven dedicated 36-foot courts for youth and beginner tennis. Cayce also offers a fitness center and a 1,200-square-foot conference room, which can hold up to 120 people, complete with conference amenities.

Not far away is the 21-court Lexington County Tennis Complex, which also has a stadium court that can fit 500 spectators. The two-story, 4,600-square-foot clubhouse offers a pro shop, stringing services, locker rooms, training area and patio viewing areas, along with a large conference room.

Both Cayce and the Lexington County facilities easily host some of the largest tournaments in both South Carolina and the USTA’s Southern Section, in addition to many other regional and national events, including the Big East Conference Championships. “Our county is very supportive of tennis,” Andrew says. “The county really keeps an eye on its sports facilities and keeps them in great shape.”

Photo courtesy of Sioux Falls CVB
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Huether Family Match Pointe (HFMP) is an award-winning public tennis facility in Sioux Falls with six indoor hard courts, state of the art LED lighting, locker rooms and a spectacular mezzanine viewing area with free Wi-Fi and cable.

Home to the South Dakota Tennis Hall of Fame, HFMP was selected by the USTA as one of the top 12 tennis facilities in the country. In addition, Cindy Huether, the driving force behind the new center, was named Tennis Advocate of the Year by Tennis Industry magazine in 2016.

Tennis, though, has a number of places to call home in Sioux Falls. “We have more than 80 courts in Sioux Falls, across 17 different venues,” says Patrick Daschel, the sports sales manager for the Sioux Falls CVB. Both Kuehn Park and McKennan Park have eight outdoor courts, as do both Washington High School and Lincoln High School. In addition, Augustana College offers six courts. “We can easily handle large tournaments here.”

Pickleball is gaining in popularity, too. The Sioux Falls Pickleball Club has 180 active members, and Daschel says hundreds more play the sport. There are six outdoor dedicated pickleball courts at Riverdale Park, and at schools and community centers, 23 indoor courts can be created.

Photo courtesy of City of Surprise
Surprise, Arizona
The City of Surprise owns and manages the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex, with 25 hard courts, eight of which also have what are known as blended lines, allowing for youth and beginner play. Other amenities include a player’s lounge/tournament area and locker rooms with shower facilities.

In 2017, the public facility hosted 21 national-level tournaments, including the NCAA Division II National Championships, the inaugural USTA National NTRP 18 and Over Championships, a USTA Pro Circuit tournament, Level 2 and Level 3 USTA National Junior Tournaments, and four USTA League National Championships. Many of the tournaments and events utilize volunteers from the Surprise Sundancers, who often serve as court monitors, security and in hospitality roles. In addition, the local USTA office can provide promotional and marketing support for events coming into the area.

“Often, tournament participants like to extend their stay in Surprise to enjoy many of the year-round opportunities this beautiful area has to offer,” says Guillermo Lucero, the city’s sports and tourism manager, who also is a member of the USTA Southwest Section board of directors. With over 300 days of sunshine, and less than 45 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the area offers great golf, is well-known for spring training baseball, and has dining, retail and hotel opportunities to suit all budgets and tastes.  SDM

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