Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Adopt-A-Court Can SAVE A COURT

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Adopt-A-Court Can SAVE A COURT

Article excerpt

Just a few years ago, the hard courts at the Odessa College Tennis Center were in ruins. Cracks on the courts were virtual canyons, wide enough to fit a tennis ball. While many of the cracks were near the net, "it was very detrimental to players," says pro Luis Valdez, who has run the West Texas tennis facility the past two years as an independent contractor.

The college, which had shut down its national championship tennis program in 1994 because of a budget crisis, was ready to raze the courts and build a parking lot and truck driving school.

But there were still people in the community who used the courts. One group, Valdez says, has been playing at the tennis center every Saturday morning for 20 years. They desperately wanted to keep the courts.

The Odessa College Tennis Center locals got their wish in 1999 when the United States Tennis Association (USTA) inaugurated Adopt-A-Court, a public facilities program designed to help communities repair and/or upgrade their tennis courts. Valdez applied and the Odessa College Tennis Center was one of the first facilities to receive an Adopt-A-Court grant.

Today, the center has eight courts bustling with activity, including USA Tennis pathway programs and wheelchair tennis exhibitions featuring 1999 International Tennis Federation Wheelchair Tennis World Champion Stephen Welch. It's not out of the question for the college to reinstate its tennis program. Valdez even envisions a day when the Odessa College Tennis Center might expand to as many as 20 courts.

"We've been really active," Valdez says. "In fact, so active that a lot of the men who play on Saturday morning have expressed concern that they have to make reservations for court time. That's a good problem to have."

The rebirth of the Odessa College Tennis Center is one of many examples of the value of the USTA's Adopt-A-Court program to public tennis courts and to the continued growth of tennis in this country. Former USTA Technical Committee Chair Steven Champlin, who worked closely with the U.S. Tennis Court and Track Builders Association (USTC&TBA) to get the program off the ground, calls Adopt-A-Court "an absolutely, undoubted success."

"The entire effort brings attention to the popularity of tennis," Champlin says.

Says Mike Carter, USTA Texas Section director of Community Development, "A lot of associations were really feeling the crunch (of people coming back to tennis). …

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