The world’s largest tennis organisation, the US Tennis Association (USTA), is planning to build a national-scale training facility at Lake Nona in southeast Orlando.
The Association confirmed in a statement this week that it has signed a letter of intent with Lake Nona Land Co. to construct a state-of-the-art tennis campus.
Chris Widmaier, Managing Director of the USTA, said:
It would be a comprehensive facility that would provide court access, coaching and player development for virtually every level of the game.
Based in White Plains, NY, the USTA has more than 770,000 members worldwide.
Widmaier could not provide details on a construction timetable, the number of courts or the cost of the project at the mixed-use development, known primarily for its ‘Medical City’ of hospitals and medical-research institutes. He said a final decision on the project is expected within the next few weeks.
Rollins College men’s tennis coach, Ron Bohrnstedt, a former USTA board member, said the Association outlined the centre for members earlier this month during its annual conference near Carlsbad, CA. As conceived, he said, the facility could have as many as 100 courts — more than any other tennis centre in the country. He added:
I’ve seen a lot of facilities that have a lot of courts, but nothing to this degree. It’s a major project.
Widmaier said that at least at first, the centre would not host professional tournaments, though it might offer competitions for amateur tennis leagues. Training centres generally offer programmes for high-school and college tennis players but may also develop league players and professionals.
In the past, the USTA has staged national-league tournaments at Sanlando Park, a county park with 25 hard courts on 40 acres in Altamonte Springs.
The Lake Nona location provides perfect weather conditions for year-round tennis and offers easy access to Orlando International Airport for visiting players. It also lends itself to national and regional tournaments, and synergy with sports-medicine research at Medical City.
Bohrnstedt said it would help him recruit players for the Rollins men’s team and provide a neutral site for matches with the University of Central Florida tennis team.
Bev Buckley, the coach of Rollins’ women’s tennis team, called the proposal “exciting news for the tennis community in Central Florida”. She said it would complement the training, nutrition and physiology work done by doctors at the Health Performance Institute at Lake Nona. She added:
This new facility will attract top players from all over the country.
It’s unclear whether government incentives would be sought to help finance the project. Tavistock Group, headed by billionaire Joe Lewis, owns Lake Nona and was instrumental in getting more than US$362m in incentives for the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.
In Florida tennis circles, the highest-profile training facility is the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis programme in Bradenton, with longtime coach Nick Bollettieri credited with coaching 10 top-ranked players, including Andre Agassi and Venus and Serena Williams.
The USTA’s training-centre headquarters are in Boca Raton, FL, which offer 9 hard courts and 14 clay courts. Its Eastern US training facility in Flushing, NY, is aimed at elite young players, and in the West, the USTA has a training centre in Carson, CA.