Racquet facilities are getting a workout as members flock to the courts for tennis, padel and pickleball.
Members are having a ball, quite literally. After the pandemic accelerated their interest in outdoor recreation like tennis and fueled the emerging pickleball trend, clubs that had primarily focused on golf have turned their attention to the expansion of racquet sports. New dedicated facilities that provide space for additional players and room for spectators (and those waiting to get on the court) are satisfying the demand for year-round racquets—and that’s a win-win for clubs and their membership.
Proud to call itself the only private club in the Austin, Texas area that offers three types of racquet sports, the Polo Tennis & Fitness Club has fulfilled the need for broader services head-on with its latest renovation. This past July, the facility unveiled three new lighted pickleball courts and three new lighted padel courts as a result of a club-wide expansion that was a year in the making. “Our building renovations and amenities upgrade was planned in the spring of 2021 by the Polo Board of Directors and executed with the help of Cliff Drysdale Tennis Management to stay at the forefront of the racquet club industry in Texas,” says Dan Carozza, Club Manager/Director of Racquets. As part of this project, the second floor of the clubhouse was expanded to accommodate fitness center offerings and double the available space and gym equipment.
Polo Tennis’s clubhouse is centrally located, with the front doors of the pro shop leading directly out to 10 tennis courts. An existing adjacent member pavilion is outfitted with a 58-inch flat-screen television, a seating area, gas grill and other related amenities for special events and tournaments. On the back end of the pro shop, members can walk past the first-floor gym and locker room area and head directly out onto the pickleball and padel courts.
When constructing the new tennis and pickleball courts, designers opted for plexi-cushion hard-court surfaces which, Carozza noted “allows for absorption of stress on the ankles, knees, hips and back.” In contrast, padel courts feature a carpet-like Astro turf and are completely enclosed in glass. While two of the tennis courts were doing double duty, plans are in place to resurface them and remove the extra lines for pickleball.
Polo Tennis & Fitness’s new racquet set-up has been proving its worth, boasting one of the largest junior programs in Texas. Among the 300+ players ages 4-18, seven of the most recent high school graduate participants earned scholarships for Division 1 college tennis teams this fall. The club also runs a robust program of junior USTA teams for all ages. “The five two-court, plus a cabana-style layout, allows for several different programs to coexist while leaving courts available for member play,” says Carozza.
Since the racquet renovation, the club has seen a 20-percent increase in activities for non-members, including round robins, tournaments, padel and pickleball drill and play days. Membership also amassed 200 active registrants in the third quarter. And when the club received the USTA’s 2022 Outstanding Facility Award last month, the newly updated clubhouse was the perfect place in which to display these accolades.
Feathering the Nest
In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the thwack of a ball bouncing off a racquet can be heard within the colossal backdrop of the Owl’s Nest Resort in Thorton, N.H. Over the past few years, the demand for pickleball and tennis has surged among guests, which prompted the development of a 25-court racquet complex. “Our owner enjoys both of these sports very much and has always wanted a [dedicated] racquet facility,” explains Director of Sports Cole Ryan. “Prior to construction, we had no racquet facilities at all.”As a follow-up to the four platform tennis courts built in fall 2020, the resort expanded its complex with the addition of eight tennis courts and 13 pickleball courts. Court styles vary by sport, with red clay for tennis and hard surface for pickleball. Resort guests have easy access to the burgeoning facility, which is located directly behind the resort’s Sports Nest and serves as the central hub for the racquet complex and golf course. Here, visitors can rent equipment, purchase clothing and indulge in refreshments at the adjacent Panorama 682 restaurant.
At night, pickleball players can extend their games on two of the courts that are illuminated. And when the seasons change and colder weather takes over the region, platform tennis players can take advantage of the heated courts, which are open year-round. (Future plans for indoor courts are in development.)
Thanks to the versatility of the Owl’s Nest racquets space, the resort has seen an uptick in business and has attracted guests from across the country. During this past August’s official grand opening of the racquet complex, more than 250 guests were in attendance to usher in the new space. “We are looking to host many more events in 2023,” says Hall.
At Hunters Run Country Club in Boynton Beach, Fla., getting a jumpstart on the latest racquet trend set the stage for the latest renovation. “We were ahead of the popularity in pickleball pre-COVID and converted one tennis court in 2017 into four pickleball courts,” says Director of Racquet Sports Mali Hall. While the initial facilities drew 40 players, the club’s pickleball community grew exponentially, now counting up to 250 members. Providing room to accommodate this expansion became a necessity, so eight additional pickleball courts were constructed this past February.
Located within walking distance from the main clubhouse, the racquet sports center provides easy access to dining, locker rooms, fitness center and card rooms. The building’s Courtside Café has a service window for grab-and-go bites, while an outdoor lounge area houses a complimentary coffee station and other beverages for pre- and post-match sustenance.
The courts themselves feature a hard-surface asphalt design, complete with textured acrylic paint for new surfaces and finished with two coats of high-performance textured acrylic. Windscreens surround the playing area, and covered viewer seating offers a shady vantage point of the first four exhibition courts.
“Since we have players waiting their turn and spectators watching, we added a 31-foot awning over the seating area in July 2022 to provide ample sun coverage,” explains Hall of the addition that is proving its value under the South Florida sun.
In addition to regular racquet play, Hunters Run supplements its in-person offering with a pickleball pool, a proprietary digital program that creates games for players based on skill level. Upon completing a calendar that makes note of days they are available for tennis or pickleball doubles, members are then matched with similar players and provided a game day and time. “The pool system is especially rewarding for the brand-new members who…don’t know anyone to play tennis or pickleball with,” she says. “Once they enter the pool and play their first game, they become part of a community and meet new friends.”
Thanks to services like these, Hunters Run has attracted new members who play both golf and pickleball. “With 12 courts, the member experience has been enhanced with minimal wait times and increased satisfaction with additional programming,” notes Hall.
The surge in pickleball participation has since prompted the club to hire Director of Pickleball Regina F. Goldberg. The professional player and world champion is responsible for cultivating an extensive pickleball program, including intra- and interclub leagues, round robins, tournaments and other special events, as well as private lessons, clinics and team practices. “We are very excited for our members, who are equally enthusiastic about the future of pickleball at Hunters Run,” says Hall.
Summing It Up
> Expanded racquet space provides clubs with much-needed room for pickleball, padel and tennis.
> Court design focused on sport-specific surfaces is enhanced by viewing areas and easy access to surrounding amenities.
> Refreshed racquet facilities provide more opportunities for member tournaments, outside teams and junior leagues.