City tennis complex dedication set
Van Wert independent/submitted information
With the opening of The Van Wert County Foundation Tennis Complex on May 24, members of the Van Wert County Tennis Association realized the culmination of an amazing yearlong collaborative effort.
“The cooperation from everybody — the financial end of it, the school, the workers — when you look at all aspects of this, I’m amazed we were able to pull this off in a 12-month period,” said VWCTA President Wayne Kilton. “And the funding for the project came totally from private resources, with none of the burden falling upon the taxpayers.”
The idea for the new courts was spawned in November 2010, as local tennis supporters realized that the three courts at Smiley Park were no longer adequate for public play, high school team practice and matches, and for youth programs.
In January 2011, approximately 20 of the tennis supporters formed the VWCTA. “We worked with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to do the necessary paperwork to get incorporated,” Kilton said. “Our two goals were to build a new tennis complex and to develop tennis programs for all ages, so people would make good use of it.”
“We wanted to include tennis programs for younger people, so we would have a farm system for developing players for the future,” Kilton went on to say. “The USTA is putting emphasis on that; they’re pushing very, very heavily the whole idea that you have to build it up from a young age.”
Individual members of the VWCTA were then assigned to visit businesses and other interested parties to raise funds for the complex. The Van Wert County Foundation was the first major donor, and, as a result, the VWCTA agreed to give the foundation naming rights to the complex (click here for a list of donors to the project).
The project also received significant financial support from the Van Wert Cougars Athletic Booster Club, VWCTA members and Van Wert Rotary Club.
Six others who made significant financial contributions to the project were given naming rights for the individual tennis courts. Those include Citizens National Bank, First Federal Savings & Loan, First Financial Bank, the friends and family of Bill and Rondalee Derry, Van Wert Federal Savings Bank and as a memorial to Roy and Neal Souders.
The Derry family was the epitome of a tennis family. Rondalee was the top female player in Van Wert for many years, while all four of the Derry children — Chris, Lisa, Elaine and Joe — are accomplished players.
Neal Souders, a varsity tennis player at Van Wert High School, was killed in an automobile accident in 1979 while attending the University of Toledo. Roy Souders, Neal’s father and an avid tennis player himself, died in 2011 after expressing an interest in having a court named for his son.
Donors of $500 or more will be recognized on a granite plaque attached to the service building at the complex. Approximately 150 donors contributed money to the project.
“We wanted to do a superior job — one that had the highest quality for the initial construction, but just as important, one that would be extremely well maintained in the future,” Kilton said. “We included $25,000 for future maintenance; for the foundation, rather than six inches of stone, we went with eight inches of stone. We increased the thickness of blacktop; we got heavy duty fencing; it’s so windy out there, that’s why we came up with the berming and planted 59 spruce trees, in addition to the windscreens.”
Kilton also noted that the project includes a high-quality tennis lighting system for three of the six courts, and a 10-by-20-foot Fiberglas ball board for practice. A small building was also built to house a restroom, storage and a concession area.
“We felt that was important if we were to have a quality project,” Kilton explained. “We went to a three by three court configuration, with a courtyard between them — which enhances coaching — rather than one row of six courts.”
Leslie Coatings Inc., an Indianapolis, Ind., company, was chosen as the contractor through a bidding process. The company has been in the business since 1946 and has built more than 9,000 tennis complexes. The Racquet Sports Industry also chose Leslie Coatings as the 2011 “Tennis Builder/Contractor of the Year.”
The complex’s service building contractors — all local — were also selected through a bid process.
Groundbreaking for the complex took place on August 26, 2011. Because of weather conditions, construction had to stop in November, and could not be resumed until May of this year.
With major assistance — in the form of grants, programs, equipment — from the USTA, youth programs began at the Smiley Park courts in the summer of 2011. A total of 41 youngsters (grades 5 and under) participated in the Youth Team Tennis program.
The new courts were opened on Thursday, May 24, and, with the addition of the new courts, two new programs — Futures (grads 6-8) and Start/Restart (adults) — have been added this year. Youth Team Tennis and Futures began June 6, with a total of 91 young players. Young people from Van Wert, Lincolnview, Crestview, Delphos St. John’s and St. Mary of the Assumption in Van Wert — as well as some home-schooled children — are among the participants. Start/Restart opened on June 19.
In addition to Kilton, other VWCTA officers include Kim Purmort (vice president), RoseAnn Cox (secretary), Brad Etzler (treasurer) and John White (Capital Campaign Committee chair).
The courts are located on the Van Wert High School-Middle School campus and are open to the public from sunrise until 11 p.m. The grand opening of the complex will be this Saturday, June 23, starting at 2 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.
Grand opening activities include a ribboncutting ceremony, young players demonstrating their newly learned tennis skills and a number of other kid-friendly activities. A tennis tournament will also be held, starting at 3 that afternoon.
Free ice cream will also be provided after the ribboncutting ceremony.