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Douglas Robson, @dougrobson, USA TODAY Sports

The United States Tennis Association is pinning a big chunk of its future on central Florida.

Today, the non-profit governing body is set to announce a $50 million project in Orlando billed as the new home for American tennis for its 750,000 members.

The 63-acre, 100-plus-court development in the Lake Nona area will house and consolidate the USTA's Community Tennis and Player Development divisions, which are primarily in New York but also have locations in other parts of the country.

The aim is to establish an A-to-Z pathway for growing the sport from the youngest players to established pros.

"It will have an impact on tennis on every level from recreation up to the professional ranks," USTA board chairman and President Dave Haggerty said. "Virtually every level of tennis can be serviced from this facility."

The project, which includes tax incentives from state, city and county officials -- including a dirt-cheap lease for the land -- will cost north of $50million, according to USTA officials. It will open in late 2016 or early 2017.

"It's a watershed moment for us," said Patrick McEnroe, who oversees the USTA's player development program for elite juniors and professionals.

Along with the $500million expansion project underway at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens that includes adding a retractable roof to Arthur Ashe Stadium, it marks the most ambitious burst of development in USTA history.

Lake Nona eventually will be home to more courts than any other facility in the country and rival the Nick Bollettieri-founded IMG Academy near Tampa.

Among its highlights:

A tournament and league area with 40 hard and clay courts, player pavilions and offices.

12 courts for intercollegiate play that also will serve as home for the University of Central Florida.

16 courts dedicated to player development.

In addition to fortifying the next generation of players and coaches, Lake Nona could host a range of events, from junior and USTA league championships to Challenger-level tournaments to Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties.

As for the U.S. Open, the USTA has no plans to uproot its crown jewel. "The U.S. Open is a New York institution and will always be a New York institution," said Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer.

The project will not proceed without unease from some, particularly in the private sector.

USTA officials emphasized the inclusive nature of the venture.

"We are going to be delivering our mission from a state-of-the-art-facility that will allow us to support and grow the game like never before," Smith said.


May 14, 2014




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