Local tennis pro Philip Anderson looks forward to breaking in the Daniel Nestor Tennis Centre when it opens in February. (Photo: Peter Marrack)
Written by: Peter Marrack
***This article was originally published by The Halifax Commoner on the 18th of January, 2013. It can be found here. It is republished with the permission of the author, who can be found on twitter @petermarrack or on his website themarrack.com. ***
Local tennis star Philip Anderson hopped a plane to Montreal last week to prepare for a series of tournaments coming up in Florida.
Despite growing up in Halifax and developing his game at the now-closed Courtyard Tennis Club in Bayers Lake Business Park, Anderson says there are no longer the courts or training opportunities around the city to support his career – much less a tennis community.
“It’s turned into the mentality, whenever I come back here my game’s not going to get any better. If anything, it’ll get a little worse,” says Anderson.
All that could change with the opening of the Daniel Nestor Tennis Centre at the Bedford Commons slated for the first week of February.
The centre, which has endured almost a decade of delay, will house six clay courts covered by a bubble in the winter, showers and a small sitting area. Clay courts, according to Tennis Canada, reduce impact on players’ joints and develop better players.
Jeff Domm, the manager of the centre, says he started planning the facility when his kids were in grade school. Now, two weeks from opening, his daughter’s in her final year at Dalhousie University.
“You’d think, ‘all I have to do is put up some courts, a building, put some clean showers in there, this shouldn’t be too hard.’ But then every day there’s a new obstacle,” says Domm.
The two biggest challenges, he says, were finding an affordable piece of land and building a team of investors interested in renewing the tennis community.
He came up with the centre’s name while refereeing a charity match featuring the world number one in doubles, Canadian Daniel Nestor.
Domm says Bedford Commons is convenient for his target market – seniors and young kids – while the hiring of experienced tennis director, Scott Hurtubise, sets the centre apart from the four-court Northcliffe Tennis Club in Clayton Park.
Glenn Dodge, owner of Northcliffe, wonders how many new members Domm’s centre can draw from the surrounding area of Bedford and Sackville.
“To be honest, I believe tennis has actually decreased in popularity with the younger generation,” says Dodge. “There’s probably only 330 people who play indoor tennis during the winter. Ten years ago, I think that number would have been more like 800.”
About 280 of those 330 are already signed up for a membership at Northcliffe, Dodge says.
Domm, on the other hand, says his investors paid closest attention to the actual courts, hiring out-of-province clay court experts to perfect the surface. He also cites a feasibility study conducted by Tennis Canada that reports 20 to 30 courts as being feasible in HRM.
“There’s definitely a need,” says Hatem McDadi of Tennis Canada. “The United States Tennis Association says for every 10,000 people, there’s enough capacity for one tennis court.”
If you apply that formula to the 2006 census conducted by Statistics Canada, HRM’s population could support around 37 courts. With the opening of the Daniel Nestor Centre, it will have 10.
That’s a start for players like Anderson, who says he’s been forced to consider his trips to Halifax as a vacation – a time to see friends and family, but not necessarily to maintain his career.
“With the new centre, I’ll be able to put in more time, which is a big positive,” says Anderson, who won national championships for Canada in 2006, went on scholarship to the University of New Mexico and has played in tournaments as far away as Thailand and Cambodia.
Once the new centre up and running, Domm says he expects it to foster junior players. He’s planning trips to schools and neighborhoods less familiar with the sport, to spark new interest. He has also booked the under-18 Nova Scotia provincials during the second week of business in February.