By E.J. Crawford
Growing the game of tennis throughout the country starts with a very simple reality: People need a place to play. Building, renovating, and updating courts, however, can be an overwhelming task for even the most experienced tennis facility managers.
The good news is that they don’t have to go it alone. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) can get facility managers started.
The USTA offers grants, logistical, and technical support to help maintain a facility’s excellence or to upgrade it to fit a vision and suit customer needs. So whether you’re just starting out, planning a state-of-the-art, multi-court tennis facility, or if you’re interested in 36- or 60-foot tennis or just trying to refurbish existing courts, the USTA is available to help.
Guiding the way is the USTA Facility Assistance Program, which aims to provide communities access to safe, appealing, and functional tennis environments.
Since 2005, the USTA has provided assistance and funding to facilities nationwide. Technical assistance is provided, at no cost, from experts with industry-leading experience in tennis court and facility construction. Thousands of concept plans, construction document reviews, design decisions, and specifications have been distributed over the years. And to provide assistance on the ground, a facility is appointed with project consultants from the USTA national staff who deliver personalized support and service to help take a project from its inception to its ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Our goal is to serve as advisors and to make the process as easy and rewarding as possible,” says Maiysha Warren, national manager, CTAs, Parks and Tennis Facility Development. “We have experts in our office and on the ground that can help you every step of the way. At the USTA, we believe that tennis can play a role in bringing a community together, and our Facility Assistance Program is there to make sure that happens.”
Tennis Facilities: Large And Small
The USTA takes on projects big and small, working with communities of all sizes to help grow the game. Altoona Parks and Recreation in Wisconsin was granted $35,000 to refurbish five courts and to build a sixth by converting a basketball court; the city of Jacksonville was awarded $20,000 for the reconstruction of five 78-foot courts and the conversion of a sixth into four 36-foot courts; and Arlington Parks & Rec in Texas was awarded $45,000 to build a series of standalone 36-foot courts.
Meanwhile, community centers, YMCAs, military installations, and schools across the country have been granted funds to build or renovate their tennis courts. All told, in the past 11 years the USTA Facilities Assistance Program has built more than 39,000 tennis courts across the country, giving players of all ages and abilities a place to play, improve, and have fun.
The USTA recognizes the importance of making financial investments in infrastructure to foster the sport’s continued growth. By investing in the rehabilitation and development of tennis facilities, the USTA provides communities with a place to gather, introducing the sport to a new generation of tennis players and fans as well as providing lifelong healthy activity.
To that end, since 2005 the USTA has allocated more than $12 million through the Facility Assistance Program to help support tennis facility enhancements, renovations and new construction projects. Currently, there are five categories of funding, which are outlined in the table below.
To be considered for project funding, communities must:
- Be actively engaged with the USTA Facility Assistance program (complete the USTA Facility Assistance Form, be working with USTA-appointed project consultant, etc.). Any project completed prior to engaging the USTA is not eligible for funding.
- Meet specified industry standards for the project, as determined by the USTA Facility Assistance program’s technical team and the latest edition of the USTA/American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) Construction Manual.
- Demonstrate financial need and matching (up to 50%) of project funds.
In recent years, 36-foot and 60-foot tennis has become especially popular and is generally granted more funding. Adding 36- and 60-foot courts to a facility is a great way to encourage more kids and families to play, as these smaller courts are easier for beginner players (children and adults) to cover, leading to more early success.
Thirty-six-foot and 60-foot courts can either be built as standalone courts or can be manufactured by adding lines— often referred to as blended lines — to existing 78-foot courts. Either way, these are an investment in the future of tennis and in the future of a facility’s programming — getting more players and families onto the courts and into clinics, lessons, and more, which in turn helps bolster the bottom line. Today, there are more than 18,000 36-foot and 60-foot courts throughout the country.
So whether tennis facility managers want to improve existing courts, build new courts, or become one of the most recent proponents of 36- and 60-foot courts, the USTA has a program to offer assistance. And the application process for the Facility Assistance Program is a rolling one; there are no deadlines. Any tennis facility that is open to the public may request assistance.
Crawford is managing editor in corporate communications for the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). He works out of the organization’s headquarters in White Plains, NY. The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S., promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level. To engage the USTA in your tennis facility plans, visit www.usta.com/facilities, or e-mail [email protected].