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Rome Tennis Center Blends Economics and Education with Tennis
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If you remember, a voice in the 1989 fantasy-drama, Field of Dreams, told Kevin Costner's character, "If you build it, he will come." A similar whisper has been heard in cities and municipalities around the country when it comes to sports like baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse. Add tennis into the conversation - as word has reached the "powers that be" on a local level that a large, modern and sprawling tennis center can drive money into the local economy, bring awareness to all that a city offers, and offer unprecedented educational and recreational opportunities for residents.

The Rome Tennis Center features 60 tennis courts
courtesy, Jordana Klein
Mobile, Alabama's Copeland-Cox Tennis Center has set the standard for a large tennis center hosting events in the Southeast, and forward looking city planners and business leaders have taken notice. According to a 2012 survey, the 60-court mega tennis center, located in west Mobile, brings with it a $54 million economic impact to the area. The survey tracked the 17 biggest events held at the facility that featured primarily out-of-town tennis players. It didn't take long for those in Mobile and other places in the south to see that tennis can be a year-round business.

"It produces a lot of business year round, and it's a hidden secret here in Mobile," states David Randel, the president and CEO of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It may have taken eight years, but the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College is now the largest public tennis center in Georgia and is being funded through $11.9 million in special purpose, local option sales tax funds on land donated by Berry College.

What was built is nothing short of amazing. Not only are there 60 courts, but also a fully-staffed pro shop, areas that can turn into "tournament areas" and porches, a conference room, three stadium courts, six NCAA courts that are 130 feet in length, eight 36' courts, TV-capable lighting on every court and even a nice touch with cabanas between every set of courts.

At the facility's opening celebration back in July, it took all of a couple minutes for Rome native and USTA Executive Director, Gordon Smith, to praise the scope of the new center and say he was recently at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in New York, site of the year's final major, the U.S. Open. "It has half the courts of this complex," Smith said.

The Rome Tennis Center had its grand opening in July
courtesy, Jordana Klein
These funds and this tennis center are already bringing visitors and their money to Rome. Rome City Manager, Sammy Rich, smiled when he mentioned that earlier this month the first tournament at the 60-court complex brought more than 700 junior players to the complex, and more have come since then and many more are on the way.

"You could ride through the parking lot and see car tags from everywhere," added Rich.

It's also bringing the future of the game of tennis to the forefront, not only in terms of players, but also for those who will be the caretakers of the sport for generations to come. While the Rome Tennis Center will serve as the home tennis courts to adjacent Berry College, it will also play a major role in Berry's new Professional Tennis Management (PTM) Program. The program will be offered to Berry students starting in 2017. Berry's PTM college-degree program will be led by Tom Daglis, who also serves as Executive Director of the Rome Tennis Center. Daglis is a USPTA Master Professional and served previously as Assistant Professor and Director of Professional Tennis Management at Methodist University.

There are a handful of colleges and universities across the country that offer PTM programs, but as Daglis explains, Berry's will be unique.

"The USTA is committed to enhancing the PTM programs. We will be in the Human Services School (at Berry), and it's a change that the USTA is developing the curriculum in an arrangement with the USPTR and USPTA. There will be standard online modules for the courses, but we have an additional component - hands on work experience at the facility."

Daglis says students can earn a Sports Admin degree with a concentration in the PTM program, as students can start taking part in tennis activities upon their arrival at Berry. Students can choose which avenue of the program they want to pursue, and this will be a part of the course catalogue for the Spring 2017 semester.

"We can't wait until 2017," says Daglis. "There will be a firm curriculum in place, the word is out and we are ready to grow."

A new Professional Tennis Management program at Berry College gets hands-on experience at the tennis center
courtesy, Jordana Klein
The Rome Tennis Center is also looking to grow the sport of tennis with the general public. The RTC currently offers three tennis professionals that are available for clinics, lessons and consultations.

Passholders and Guests are welcome with annual options, beginning at $60/individual per year and a family pass is just $95. These passes allow free year-round play and the ability to reserve courts a week in advance. A pass also entitles the holder to pro shop discounts, special mixers and ladders.

There will also be various adult and junior clinics, academies, league play, socials and organized local, sectional and national tournaments.

 

Check out the Rome Tennis Center, visit their website at RomeTennisCenter.com, or call them at 706-236-4490.

 

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About Rick Limpert

Rick Limpert is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. He covers sports and technology for the likes of Yahoo News and Sports and has covered tennis at all levels for almost 10 years. His website is www.ricklimpert.info and you can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell.

 
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