Tennis, anyone?

Credit: Shannon Cornman

Add to the mix a new program for underserved youth and it becomes apparent the public tennis scene in OKC is moving forward.

The Oklahoma City Tennis Center, 3400 N. Portland Ave., has long been considered a top-notch facility, but it’s on the cusp of reaching new heights thanks to a $2.88 million capital improvement program initiated by Mark Allen, the center’s executive director; and Brad Lund, board member of First Serve OKC Campaign.

Half of the construction funding will come from the city’s parks and recreation budget, provided Allen and Lund can raise the remainder.

The plan calls for a new six-court indoor pavilion, a five-court 10-andunder facility, outdoor court cabanas, improvements to the outdoor stadium court and enhanced landscaping on the eastern portion of the complex.

The indoor facility is expected to incorporate a pro shop, a snack shop, locker rooms, a viewing area and a climate-controlled lounge.

Groundbreaking should occur sometime in early January, followed by up to 12 months of construction.

“Once this is complete, we believe the OKC Tennis Center [will] be amongst the premier public facilities in the country, if not the best,” Lund said.

“This will be rewarding for the public park player. It will impact thousands

of Oklahoma City residents and is well overdue. There are hundreds of players, adults and kids, who play seasonally because of the economics of tennis.”

The tennis center has hosted the state’s high school tennis championships for the past decade and once served as home to the Big 8 tournament before the conference moved to 12 teams.

First hurdle
Lund, who learned the game on Tulsa’s public tennis courts, said he and Allen wanted to help public-parks players hone their skills during Oklahoma’s brutally cold winters.

“It was breaking our hearts for talented youngsters to train April through September and then come back after the winter months and their games could not catch up with the competition,” he said.

As a result, the pair set out to obtain matching funds from OKC and worked to develop a First Serve chapter.

Coordinated by National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL), First Serve is an initiative to help underserved youth gain leadership skills, educational opportunities and physical fitness through participation in tennis.

Serve programming will include day camps, private instruction, drill
groups, tournament play and mentoring from program coordinators. Any
child eligible for free and reduced lunches in the public school system
can participate.

tennis center will host two week-long camps this summer, but space is
limited. The fall schedule will be announced in late summer.

“We want to build the [First Serve] program before we start the new indoor facility,” Lund said.

chapters in Philadelphia and Milwaukee have experienced a success, he
said, with “thousands” of public park players advancing to the
collegiate ranks.

“That’s what we want to see here,” Lund said.

Learning the game
the First Serve program is limited this summer, Steve Henry, the
center’s tennis director, said he envisions large numbers of youngsters
participating for years to come. “I can foresee in the future having 100
to 150 kids a week,” he said. “There are a lot of youth who are
athletic but haven’t had opportunities to participate. With the indoor
facility, this will evolve into year-round training for them.”

The planned 10-and-under courts will help youngsters learn the game at their level.

these smaller courts, we have shrunk the game of tennis to their size,”
Henry said. “There will be a smaller racket, smaller court and a
shorter net.”

In addition, the balls used by the 10-and-under players will be 10 percent bigger with lower compression.

“The balls will bounce to their height,” Henry said.

far, donations to the First Serve program have ranged from $25 to
$100,000. To donate, call 946-2739 or visit

Tim Farley

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