Editor’s Note: James has done it all, 32 times national champion, a Davis Cup player and tournament Director, and an established coach. Jim, president of the OTA, has been involved with the successful provincial association since 1996. His legacy will be complete once he quarterbacks the new proposed OTA tennis center.
OC: James, you have been an institution in Canadian tennis for years, a many times National Junior Champion, a great college player, a men’s Canadian champion, a Davis Cup player, Chair of the Davis Cup, a coach of many top Canadian players and the President of the OTA. – Tell us what of the above provides you with the best memories?
Everything, from playing to organizing, has been a blast and made my life complete. However, our work at the OTA has brought about the development of many great Canadian players who have gone on to the international scene and achieved tremendous success makes me the happiest. We know that any one person or organization can’t attain these achievements. Instead, it takes a team of partners working together to produce significant outcomes. Milos Raonic was, in my mind, the person who led the way and showed Canadians that we could play at the highest levels. Others followed, and I believe more are coming because, in Ontario, we built a competitive structure system allowing young players to train and compete 24 months a year. It fosters players who learn to play matches at an early age. All three stars (Milos, Bianca, and Dennis) played 50 OTA singles per year from ages 8-12, translating into 250 competitive opportunities before they were teenagers.
On a personal note, I have been blessed with good physical health and the spirit of competitiveness, which allowed me to be National champions at 14 and 65. I now only play doubles with my friend Barry Goman having retired from singles.
OC: You are quarterbacking Ontario’s project of a new tennis centre operated by the OTA. Can you tell us how the project started, evolved and where you are?
About ten years ago, I saw the writing on the wall regarding winter tennis and the facilities we had in Ontario. The private sector model, in my opinion, could not be sustained due to the increases in land values and the cost of operations. Eventually, owners would sell the property for land value or convert it to another use for better ROI results. Ontario needed a massive training centre devoted only to the game of tennis and not used partially for other revenue-generating activities.
We prepared a plan and presented it to the OTA Board of Directors; it passed unanimously, and away we went. We spent two years researching models that would guarantee longevity and not be sold for their parts. Private, public and government funding on municipal land with no taxation or rent is the way to go. On Friday, July 22, 2022, Toronto City Council unanimously approved our Lease Term Sheet. That has taken us two plus years to achieve. We have a prime piece of real estate on Allen Road for 49 years at $1 rent / year with a renewal for another 49 years. The property sits on 1.3 hectares of land (3.21 acres), with each acre valued at about $10 million each. Ten permanent indoor courts are on the first floor and ten outdoor/indoor courts on the second floor.
We have brought together the best people, including the world-famous Diamond/Schmitt architects and the legal firm of Minden/Gross. Once complete, it will be unique worldwide and put Ontario on the international tennis scene.
OC: What do you need to accomplish to make this vision successful?
The hardest part has been accomplished by getting the deal with the City of Toronto on the lease. Now the permissions for construction, financing and fundraising from all the sectors begin in earnest.
OC: Everyone is aware of private clubs closing across the country due to the value of the land. How does this affect tennis in our country?
We all know Montreal was the most brutal hit several years ago, and now Toronto and Ontario are following suit. If we do not act, tennis will be in trouble in the next several years. The OTA Training Centre MUST be built soon! 2026 is the target for the ribbon cutting.
OC: You have been part of the Canadian tennis landscape; what is your wish for the sport that has been so much part of your life?
I hope tennis becomes the choice of sport for all kids who wish to enjoy a physical life of activity and health. Year after year, we produce world-class champions.