Tennis

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Tennis Rallies Back

1 Nov, 2021

By: Peter Francesconi

Up until 2020, participation in tennis had leveled off at around 18 million total players for five years, according to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Physical Activity Council. But then, as the pandemic forced a hiatus in team sports activity through 2020, tennis saw big gains. Participation jumped 22.4 percent, to 21.6 million total players in the U.S., as players and families realized they could safely hit the courts and gain all the benefits that tennis has to offer.

Now, tennis tournaments at all levels of the game continue to come back for players of all ages. This surge in play has also led to investment in tennis facilities across the country, as players flock to new and renovated courts. Tournaments for all ages and abilities continue to thrive around the country, and at venues such as these.

Arlington, Texas

“Arlington has a tremendous tennis community and, when paired with our outstanding venues, makes the perfect home for championship tennis events,” says Matt Wilson, executive director of the Arlington Sports Commission. “We have a rich history of championship events in this city at all levels of competition and sport. Championship tennis events will continue to be a focus for Arlington in the years to come.”

The city backs that up with the excellent Arlington Tennis Center, with 20 lighted courts spread out over 13 acres and complete with a 4,000-square-foot pro shop with a beautiful multi-purpose patio that serves as the tournament desk, hosts social events and parties, and has a great view of the featured court where championship matches are played.

ATC operates year-round and hosts at least 60 annual events of all types, from USTA Juniors, University Interscholastic League (UIL), high school, NAIA collegiate, ITA, NCAA, USTA leagues, CTA events, and all types of certifications and training. About 50 USTA League tennis teams play out of ATC.

“Our CVB and Sports Commission help to clear a path for events and help make a home for them here,” Wilson says, from venue procurement, to sourcing hotel rooms, finding volunteers and sponsors, food vendors and more. “In some cases, we’re able to help provide local and/or state funding for an event,” he notes.

Collier County, Florida

The Naples area has been a hotbed for tennis activity for a long time. The award-winning public Arthur L. Allen Tennis Center is in the heart of Old Naples, offering 12 state-of-the-art sub-irrigated, lighted Har-Tru courts. (Two of the courts offer additional lighting to accommodate professional events or tournament play.) For player comfort, there are shade structures and cold-water fountains between each court.

Other tennis facilities in Collier County include Pelican Bay Community Park, which has eight lighted clay courts, a lighted playground, walking trails, a lake and other amenities. Vineyards Community Park offers four cushioned courts with lights, in addition to features including meeting rooms, picnic shelters, lighted playground and restrooms. With its interactive water play area, the park is a nice attraction for families with children. There’s also Golden Gate Community Park, with four lighted tennis courts, an aquatic complex and a fitness center. Veterans Community Park, one of the county’s busiest, features 14 pickleball courts (six lighted) and two lighted tennis courts. 

Of course, pickleball is also huge in Naples, and organizers of both sports should know the East Naples Community Park is one of the country’s hubs for the sport. With 58 pickleball courts, the park is home to the annual US OPEN Pickleball Championships, which draws thousands of players in dozens of different divisions. 

“Having this event in Naples has made us the ‘Pickleball Capital of the World,’” said Jack Wert, who recently retired as Collier County tourism director. The East Naples Community Park facility also is home to the Pickleball Pro Shop of Collier County and the Pickleball Academy of South West Florida.

Conway, Arkansas

“Since the opening of the Conway Tennis Center in 2016, tennis in Conway has grown tremendously,” says Rachel Shaw, executive director of the Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s a first-class, city-owned facility that is available for all types of tennis events, along with private lessons and clinics. The city parks department does a great job managing and maintaining the facility. We work closely with the Conway Area Tennis Association, and they’ve done a really great job of building the tennis community in town as well as recruiting events to the area.”

The eight-court facility, complete with lights and spectator seating available at each court, has hosted a fall CATA Junior Tournament annually for the past five years, as well as high school tennis tournaments and the Conway Regional Classic, which is a USTA-sanctioned event. There also are eight courts at the University of Central Arkansas and five courts at Hendrix College. For events coming into the area, the Conway CVB can offer marketing help, potential funding to offset facility costs, introductions to potential sponsors and hotels, as well as other services.

When not on the court, visitors can enjoy boutiques and restaurants in downtown Conway, which offers the charm of a small town with the amenities of a larger city. Other attractions include the recently opened Toad Suck Mini Golf, a putt-putt golf course. “We also have several walking, hiking and biking trails throughout town, including at Cadron Settlement Park on the Arkansas River,” says Shaw.

Lexington, South Carolina

Tennis is woven into the fabric of the community in Lexington County, South Carolina, just outside of Columbia. The county’s Recreation & Aging Commission runs two 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 longtime director of operations, who is retiring at the end of 2021 (and who will be inducted into the USTA Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in January).

The Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center has 30 lighted courts, with a championship 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.”

Lubbock, Texas

Lubbock Sports knows how to serve up hospitality and service on and off the tennis court. “With over 70 courts available for use at Lubbock’s local country clubs, schools and public facilities, we go above and beyond with your athletes, coaches and spectators,” says McKenna Dowdle of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance & Visit Lubbock.

Lubbock is well-known in tennis, serving as a regional site for University Interscholastic League (UIL) tennis competitions, as well as many USTA tournaments. Among the premier facilities are the Burgess Rushing Tennis Center, which offers 12 lighted courts, including four courts each with seating for more than 200 fans, along with restrooms and concessions. The Don & Ethel McLeod Tennis Center at Texas Tech University also has 12 lighted courts, seating for nearly 600, restrooms and concessions. Another eight lighted courts (four indoor, four outdoor) are available at the Falls Tennis & Athletic Center, and six Lubbock area high schools offer a combined 38 lighted courts, too. The city also has four indoor courts available.

Tennis events that have been played in Lubbock include the West Texas Pro Tennis Open, which attracted nearly 100 players from across the country, and hundreds of spectators. Upcoming events include the UIL Regional Spring Meet, which will bring high school girls’ and boys’ teams from across West Texas — more than 200 athletes — to the “Hub City.” There’s also the Lubbock Highway 80 tournament, which attracts nearly 200 young male and female players from across the region.

“Our team offers a variety of services and hospitality including game and event staff and volunteers, access to experienced umpires, marketing efforts and assistance booking group-rate hotel rooms,” Dowdle says. “We’re well-equipped to meet the needs of every event.”

McKinney, Texas

“Tennis in McKinney continues to thrive, thanks to the support the city has given to its award-winning tennis center, and now one of the largest public tennis centers in the state,” says Matt Hanlin, the Impact Activities Director who oversees tennis management at The Courts of McKinney, which was honored by the USTA in 2012. The facility offers 23 tennis courts (along with six pickleball courts), a 1,500-square-foot pro shop and showers/restrooms. Future plans call for a six-court indoor building with a gym and offices, adds Hanlin.

“We love hosting all tournaments, from the intro levels to aspiring professionals, and have been fortunate to partner with some of the best events in North Dallas,” he notes. “Our in-house tournament director also helps us bring players, families and spectators to the very welcoming McKinney community.”

The Courts recently hosted an international junior ranking tournament and regularly hosts many college, high school, local and regional events of all sizes. On the pickleball front, more than 1,000 players took part in a regional championship tourney in McKinney.

Visit McKinney assists tournament directors and planners with negotiating and securing hotel room blocks, finding venues for post tournament/championship celebrations, restaurants, welcome bags, and more, says Dee-Dee Guerra, the executive director of Visit McKinney. 

Off the court, Guerra adds, “McKinney has a quaint and vibrant historic downtown square where you’ll find more than 120 businesses.” McKinney is home to beautiful, lush parks, too, with wide walking trails, playgrounds and ponds. 

Surprise, Arizona

The City of Surprise owns and manages the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex, with 25 hard courts, including courts that have “blended” lines for youth and beginner play. Other amenities include a player’s lounge/tournament area and locker rooms with shower facilities.

One of the largest tennis events Surprise hosts is the USTA League National Championships, with up to 700 players and 500 spectators at each event. The USTA NTRP National Championships are two separate weekend events for singles and doubles that have hosted 303 and 378 players respectively, along with approximately 200 spectators at each event. The Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex also hosted the 2021 NCAA Division II men’s and women’s regional and national championships, and has been selected to host the event again in 2025.

The City of Surprise Sports and Tourism Department plays a significant role in helping to attract and continue the City’s partnership with USTA, securing hotel room blocks and discounted rates, helping facilitate facility rental and assisting with the operations of the tournaments. In addition, the department provides assistance with player parties, outings and other destination dining and entertainment needs.

“During the pandemic, tennis was identified as one of the safest sports that people could actively participate in,” says Guillermo “Bill” Lucero, the city’s sports and tourism manager. “Our team works with our partners in USTA and NCAA to continue to offer our players a positive and safe event. We consistently look at ways to enhance the overall experience by introducing new formats of play that offer a fresh perspective on the traditional tennis tournament to capture these new and returning players to the sport.” SDM

 
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