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New Mercer County Tennis Center Now Open for Business

November 6, 2008 01:50 AM

When Mercer County Indoor Tennis Center opened in 1968, Arthur Ashe was part of a star-studded exhibition match at the March dedication. Now, 40 years later, as that center located at the Mercer County Airport lies deserted and in disrepair, a brand-new Mercer County Tennis Center at Mercer County Park is ready for tomorrow’s indoor season opening. There may have been no big-time celebrities at Monday night’s Grand Opening celebration, but there was a great turnout, and there was a buzz in the air at the six-court replacement structure.


Soon after the ribbon cutting, players filled the courts to be among the first to hit some balls there. The building, heated in the winter but not air conditioned in the summer, has been tested this summer and the word is that it will be comfortable without air conditioning. The reception and viewing areas will, however, have air. In planning the viewing and reception area, Park Commision Executive Director Kevin Bannon said they tried to be as multi-purpose as possible.


Words floating around during the opening festivities were: jewel, incredible, fantastic, terrific, and long-time-coming. Rave reviews came all around, including the lighting, the outside landscaping, and  the cozy atmosphere.


There are improvements all around. The adjacent clubhouse exterior has been renovated, and the guts of the building will be replaced, as well as an upgrade of the HVAC and electrical systems. Plans also call for additional parking and a bus turnaround, hopefully by next spring, according to Bannon. By next spring, all 24 outside courts will be lit. The current court lights, which have faded over the years, will be relamped and, as a result, will be 30% brighter.


Tennis director Marc Vecchiolla is thankful to Bannon and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes for making the new tennis center happen. And Bill Stoner, the first tennis director at the airport site, reminds everyone that we owe Dick Coffee a debt of gratitude because none of this would be happening without all that he did while president of the Mercer County Park Commission, particularly in getting the land for the park and developing a recreational plan.


Stoner is one of many who remember the old center with much fondness and nostalgia. “It’s very sad,” said Stoner. “It’s been used magnificently and enjoyed by everyone. I’m so sorry to see it go but time has eroded it and the new place is beautiful.”