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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
A new, two-story tennis clubhouse six times the size of the current one will usher in a bevy of players in 2019.
The Key West-style clubhouse will include an indoor cafe, outdoor dining and observation decks, a sports performance room, pro shop, men's and women's locker rooms and two rooms that can be rented for special occasions.
The Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center with 18 clay courts is on 117th Court North, next to the Joseph R. Russo Athletic Complex and near Watson B. Duncan Middle School.
It has attracted top talent, including tennis royalty Venus and Serena Williams. Venus was there practicing right before the French Open, Director of Tennis Laura Schuppert said.
"We do see them quite a bit," Schuppert said of the longtime Palm Beach Gardens residents. "The kids were watching her play. It's really great to have them as our neighbors."
Tennis has become a power game in the Williams' sisters era, and the performance room will give players a place to work on strength training and conditioning.
"We're really excited to have that piece," Schuppert said.
The city expects to award a construction contract for the 12,700-square-foot clubhouse in November, and it will take about 10 months to build. Temporary trailers re-purposed from the recent golf course clubhouse construction will allow operations to continue during that time.
The clubhouse will cost an estimated $3.5 million, which will be paid from the sale of the city's public works facility. The money will initially come from the general fund because the building has not yet sold.
Public works and public services will move into a new operations center paid for with $6.7 million generated by the penny sales tax increase.
The current 2,000-square-foot tennis clubhouse dates back to 1999, Schuppert said.
The city's program has risen in popularity since then, with 800 members and women from 14 Palm Beach County Women's Tennis Association teams -- each with 16 players -- competing on the courts.
There are six men's teams and counting, not to mention summer camps, hitting frenzies and wellness programs.
"The courts have kept up with the tennis demand, but the building has not," Leisure Services Administrator Charlotte Presensky said.
In 1999, it would have been impossible to predict how much the program would grow, she said.
When it rains, the players all try to squeeze into the clubhouse or under an overhang. The new clubhouse will have ample space, plus second-floor meeting space for them to host a luncheon or celebrate a birthday after they play tennis, Presensky said.
Women ages 25 to 45 are the biggest users of the tennis center, Schuppert said.
"We've hit this niche with this age group. The whole social component is very big," she said.
In the new club, players can grab a quick bite for breakfast or lunch, Schuppert said. She expects parents may also wander over from the Joseph R. Russo Athletic Complex or the new North County District Park, another penny sales tax project. The district park also will have concession stand.
The city is also adding more parking behind the courts. No new courts are planned, Schuppert said, although the city has the capacity to build more if necessary.
Players are looking forward to the coming changes.
"They have to have a fantastic clubhouse because they have such a fantastic facility here now. They'll match it," said Linda Pelong, an Admirals Cove resident . "The public should be impressed with the way they are improving constantly."
Palm Beach Gardens resident Louise King said she's been a member of the tennis center for years. Although she's not excited about the construction period, she knows it will be worth it.
"I can't wait," she said.
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