Down the line. Cross court. Lob! Centre Court’s first year has been all that—an absolute winner.
“We’ve had a lot of positive comments from people out of town . . .” Norman Woodward, president of Owensboro Daviess County Tennis Association, said. “I think it’s the nicest facility in the state.” The unprecedented partnership between the City of Owensboro and ODCTA, which yielded the $2.7 million facility, with 6 indoor courts and 9 outdoor courts, has more than doubled its membership within a year’s time. April 13 marks the anniversary of Centre Court’s opening, and by the numbers, the mammoth facility now has 274 memberships (over 500 players). Wow.
What’s responsible for that growth? Short answer: If you build it . . . “Because of the facility, it has allowed us to expand our programs and number of pros, who can offer more programs and different programs that appeal to different people; so it just grew itself,” Norman said. Staff tennis pros are teaching more than 70 youngsters in weekly clinics, and high school tennis teams practice at Centre Court. Open 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. weekdays (8 – 4 p.m. Saturdays; noon – 6 p.m. Sundays), Centre Court is conveniently located between Good Shepherd Church and OHS’s soccer complex on Bittel Road. On a comparative scale with other fitness / tennis facilities, Centre Court falls in the low to median range in terms of cost. For example, a member could play 1½ hours of doubles during the winter for $9. Memberships for juniors, singles, seniors and families are available.
During the summer season, court rates go to half price ($12 hour). “One of the biggest surprises we had last year was the number of players who used the indoor courts during the summer. We weren’t expecting as much use . . . part of that is the half-price rate and the other part is just the comfort of it. You know you’re going to play if it’s raining; it’s not going to be too hot,’’ Norman said.
With over 298 guests visiting Centre Court, Bill Henness (general manager and teaching pro) has fielded multiple questions and received abundant compliments about the state-of-the-art facility: “So many players from Louisville and Lexington came up to the front desk last year during the 55’s State Tournament and said, ‘You are so lucky to have this place.’” Lucky indeed.
Along with the newest LED lighting system, the 100,000-square-foot facility boasts a highly efficient heating and cooling system and a central double-deck viewing area (glassed-in lower lobby and upper mezzanine / balcony area, accessible by stairs and elevator). Those viewing areas are second to none. “I’ve never been in any place where you could see—whether you’re upstairs or downstairs. You can see every court [three on each side] from any place in this club . . . and you don’t see that anyplace else,” Bill said. “A lot of credit is given to the City; they really made sure it was a first-class facility—it’s very nice, very functional, user-friendly,” Norman said. Centre Court’s Pro Shop features tennis racquets, bags, court shoes, hats, visors, towels, T-shirts, tennis balls and accessories for sale, as well as on-site racquet stringing.
Tennis has the reputation of being a life-long sport, and Centre Court offers something for all ages: Quick Start (ages 5-8), Junior Development and High Performance for youth; Monday night, men’s drop-in clinic; Tuesday and Thursday mornings, women’s drop-in clinics / drills; Tuesday night and Saturday morning, cardio tennis; and Sunday afternoon, Pickle Ball. Centre Court has given all age groups (from 4 to 84) in the community an opportunity for enjoyable and competitive physical fitness.
“There are affordable opportunities for anybody that wants to learn how to play tennis; we will accommodate that. If we don’t have something for them, we will create a program for anybody who walks in the door and wants to play tennis,” Norman said. To that point, Centre Court practically sells itself. “If I can just get you to come down here and walk through the door, then show you the club, once you see it you’ll say, ‘I think I’d like to play in there,’” Bill said.
Norman issued an open invitation to anyone who would like to visit the tennis facility, to attend a monthly ODCTA Board meeting, to volunteer, to plug-in their talents at Centre Court. “Our Board puts in a tremendous amount of time, and Centre Court wouldn’t be as good as it is without them. We’re always looking for new people to help us. It’s not a closed group,” he said. Then he sweetened the offer. “Find three friends who would like to take a tennis lesson with you, and your first lesson is free—just call Centre Court (270-240-4213) to set it up.” . . . and they will come.