Tuesday February 3, 2009
The most-used seasonal tennis facility in the state of Kentucky, the Louisville Tennis Center, has been named 2009 “Facility Of The Year” by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Kentucky.
Metro Parks representatives, including Head Pro Pete McGrath, will receive the award during the USTA Kentucky Hall of Fame & Awards Gala held on Saturday, February 7 at Standard Country Club in Louisville.
“This award comes as a result of the hard work and commitment of the staff at the Tennis Center,” McGrath, who was named Head Pro in 2004, said. “It’s proof that Louisville is a community that supports tennis as a fun and exciting way to get exercise and compete.”
The idea to build the Louisville Tennis Center was conceived in July 1964 by brothers Sam English and John English, who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame on February 7. They set up a non-profit called the Louisville Municipal Tennis Center, Inc., that sought funding to build at the site, located across from the Louisville Zoo on Trevilian Way in Joe Creason Park. The center was dedicated in 1969, and hosted the Louisville International Tennis Classic from 1970-1982 in addition to local tournaments and leagues. Legends such as Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver and John Newcombe played in the Louisville International Tennis Classic
The center remained open until 2001, but was closed during 2002 and 2003 when the building was in disrepair. Under the leadership of McGrath and Metro Parks Director Mike Heitz, it was renovated and re-opened in 2004 and began turning a profit almost immediately. Play at the center has quadrupled over the ensuing 5 years. During the summer, more than 1,600 players participate at the center each week, and more than 500 junior players take tennis lessons there on a weekly basis. In order to keep up with the projected demand, two additional courts were built in 2007.
Metro Parks plans to add concessions and an expanded pro shop in 2009. Extra seating was added around the courts during 2008 to fill the projected demand.
Participants as old as 90 years of age play at the Tennis Center, and 95 percent of its junior players first took tennis lessons there.
“It’s great to see the Tennis Center expand, and it’s going to be a big part of our plans in the future,” Heitz said. “We’re delighted to see it fill an obvious recreational need for Louisville residents of all ages.”
The tennis center reintroduced tournament play in 2008 by hosting the Sam English State Clay Court Championships – named after the visionary leader who founded the Tennis Center. The Falls Cities Championships, viewed as the city’s tennis championship, will be hosted there during 2009, and McGrath said the center is pursuing additional tournaments for 2010.
“It has been a pleasure to see the growth at the center and to be a part of it,” McGrath said. “We’re expecting bigger and better things in the future.”
For more on the history and programming at the Tennis Center, visit http://www.louisvilleky.gov/MetroParks/outdoors/louisvilletenniscenter/. The Center is located in Joe Creason Park, across from the Louisville Zoo. For more information, call 502/456-8140.