Author: Jake Moe | The Seattle Times
ake Moe, the tennis coach at Seattle’s Blanchet High School, has been actively involved in the creation of Tennis Center Sand Point for over 14 years and owns a small stake in the facility.
Indoor tennis has been a part of the old Sand Point Naval Base on the shores of Lake Washington for decades.
Years ago, Navy personnel would gather in a converted airplane hangar and hit the ball around in a space not much bigger than the actual court size. The lighting was dim, the surface was pot-marked concrete and the air was dusty and cold.
Still, it was tennis.
Fast forward to today, and the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation will open a $6 million indoor tennis facility on June 1. Tennis Center Sand Point is a template for how a true public facility can be financed and built by private entities. The first-class facility is game changer for Seattle public tennis, with heating in winter and cooling in summer, along with showers, lockers, a café, pro shop, video streaming and large menu of programs for tennis players.
For 17 hours a day, folks from all over the Pacific Northwest will be hitting balls at the new facility and perfecting their games.
New Tennis Director Jamie Dieveney, with his wife Kate, brings a breath of fresh air to instruction, clinics, camps, competitions and even an innovative Be Well Tennis Program for area corporations.
“There is a reason that tennis has been the fastest growing sport in America during the last 10 years,” Dieveney said. “Tennis is a lot more fun today than ever before with new racquet technology, new stroke techniques and even soft foam balls for the youngsters as young as 2 years old to whack around while they are learning the game. And, we are really excited to bring this tennis energy to Seattle,”
The facility is scheduled to open June 1, in time for summer youth programs such as YMCA Tennis, Nike Tennis Camps, Intro to Tennis Juniors Programs, Adult League as well as a significant regional tournament. A formal grand opening, featuring Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and the Seattle Symphony, is slated for the first week of September.
The story of how the Sand Point tennis went from swatting balls inside hangers to a state-of-the-art facility can be traced back to the early 1980s. As Seattle Parks and Receation began to oversee what would become Magnuson Park, a glimmer of hope spread through the tennis community that real indoor tennis at Sand Point might be possible. That hope focused on a shy tennis devotee named Skip Norton.
An engineer by trade, Norton carried his message that tennis could be a great addition to the future park to anyone who might listen. And, gradually, they did.
In the 1990s, a Tennis Advisory Committee was set up and a meeting was arranged. To everyone’s surprise, dozens volunteers showed up to put their voices, muscle and enthusiasm behind the idea of developing an indoor tennis facility within Magnuson Park. Folks were assigned specific committees, tasks and responsibilities. The Tennis Advisory Committee met monthly for years in an attempt to “move the ball forward.”
The City of Seattle paid to have the old building sitting on the future tennis structure site torn down and soil engineering tests completed. The City even paid one of Seattle’s best-known tennis players, local architect Mel Streeter, to draw up the plans for a facility. But the $11 million pricetag of Streeter’s plans for a first-class tennis center was beyond what the tennis community and city could afford.
Early in 2006, Eric Freidli, then manager of Magnuson Park and now assistant director of Seattle Parks, sat down with two local tennis entrepreneurs, Scott Marshall and Johann Tan, to discuss a public/private alternative for a facility developed and operated by the city. At that meeting, the current trajectory of Tennis Center Sand Point was launched.