Change of venue: Court renovations should enhance tennis experience in Waynesboro

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

tennis2.gifI’ve played my fair share of sets on the tennis courts at Ridgeview Park over the years, and so I’m familiar with the notion that it has long since been past time for something to be done about their condition.

That big check that you see in the picture to your right is a big reason that the work is finally under way.

“The city had this in their plan, and they were considering doing these courts. But as you know, the city went through a lot of capital-funding conversations this year about where the money was going to come from. So we stood a very good chance of not having these courts funded this year. When we convinced them that we could get these grants and get support, it lowered the overall expense, and I think that was a convincing factor for them to go ahead and find financing,” said Bill Rodgers of the Staunton Waynesboro Augusta Tennis Association, which helped find the $41,000 in grants from the United States Tennis Association and the National Recreation and Parks Association that is helping make the $182,000 improvement project possible.

Work has begun to renovate the five-court complex. The project is on schedule for a June 1 grand reopening of the courts, said Dave Van Covern, the director of parks and recreation in Waynesboro.

“That’s pretty optimistic, but it’s doable with some good weather,” said Van Covern of the improvements, which include new surfaces on all five courts, new fencing around the courts, a fiberglass backboard for people to practice on inside court #5, a sidewalk providing access to three ingress/egress gates and electrical plugs that will allow instructors to use machines in practice sessions.

“We’re really excited,” Van Covern said. “We’ve been trying to get work done on these courts since Hurricane Isabel came through. We were unsuccessful in getting some funding immediately after that. Now we’re in a position with the help of SWAT to get these things going. Forty-one thousand dollars is a sizable amount of money, and will allow us to initiate these improvements and get on with business, and at the same time will let us do a couple of things that we need to do to upgrade the experience that we’ve got here.

“Ultimately it will create a better environment for the public and the tennis patron that’s out here,” Van Covern said.

Pat Hanssen, the president of USTA-Virginia, said the current complex, which is more than 40 years old, has held up surprisingly well for its age and use, “but clearly, they’ve reached a state where they’re clearly worn out.”

“It gets to the point where it’s a hazard to players, where the game is not able to played as it should be played, and new facilities can make a world of difference. Because new facilities can bring people out, they get excited, they want to try it out, and the programs can build from that,” Hanssen said.

The new court complex should be a draw for the entire community, Rodgers said.

“When people come to this park, they will see a more attractive environment, bring their kids,” Rodgers said. “The programs that SWAT is going to introduce down here we hope over the next six months to a year are going to be programs that we think are going to be about family fitness, possibly some team tennis in the evenings, which aren’t available now. We hope to provide some things that are free to a variety of different cultures in our community so that we can have a variety and diversity of people participate in tennis, possibly people that don’t participate now.”

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.


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