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Tennis players have options after club shutters

The number of indoor tennis courts in the Medford area took a sizable hit when the Rogue Valley Swim and Tennis Club closed its doors Dec. 31 to make way for The Courthouse, a massive, multi-use club that’s the brainchild of America’s Best Kids and Athletic Edge owner Don Berryessa.

Phase one of the remodel is expected to be completed in March, according to Berryessa, and since indoor tennis courts are not in the plans, local tennis players have lost five of the area’s 13 indoor courts.

The displaced players looking for a new home have two clubs from which to choose, each of which has four indoor courts: Rogue Valley Country Club and Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club.

RVCC tennis director Kory Rogers says his club has gained about 80 new tennis members since RVSTC closed. So far, he said, growing pains from the influx of new members has been minimal.

“We’re a tight tennis community, we’re like a tennis family,” he said. “Everybody knew everybody anyway, so it wasn’t very difficult of a transition to go from one spot to another. Obviously, if you lose five indoor tennis courts, you’re definitely going to feel it, but we’ve pulled together as a group and I think everybody’s going to be happy here.”

When it comes to keeping club tennis players happy, one key factor is the ease to find an open court at a preferred time. Despite the recent surge, the two remaining clubs with indoor courts appear to be meeting members’ needs.

According to guidelines laid out by the United States Tennis Association, 90 tennis members per court is considered maximum capacity, 70 per court is healthy. Both Rogue Valley Country Club and Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club are well below the healthy range, with RVCC falling in the “very healthy” range, according to Rogers.

“We have about 200 tennis members right now,” Rogers said. “We’ll probably end up being about 215, 220 by the time it’s all said and done in another month or so. ... So everybody’s kind of figuring some stuff out, but it’ll work out. Right now we’re getting a little bit of elbow room because everybody wants the prime time courts, 9 a.m., that kind of thing. But it’ll all work out because like I said, everybody just wants to play tennis, and that’s a good thing.”

The Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club has gained 20 to 25 members plus well-known coach Frank Inn, according to tennis director Chip Blackmon. Court space at ATFC, which has undergone an extensive remodel since new owner Lexi Packer purchased the club last April, has not been an issue despite the recent additions.

“They’re looking for a home and we’re very happy to be able to provide them the services that they’re looking for,” Blackmon said. “No, there’s still open courts available. It’s not packed to the gills. You may not get the exact time that you’re looking for, but there’s always something that seems to be around that area.”

Longtime ATFC tennis coach Gail Patton agreed, noting that on a recent day two courts at the club were open until about 9:30 a.m., after which all the courts were booked “pretty solid” until 7:15 p.m.

“For the health of the club, that’s actually a good thing,” she said. “Rule of thumb for profit-type clubs is 70 players per indoor court, and we’re definitely not there. We don’t necessarily want to be there because then you’re fighting each other for courts and we don’t really want to do that.”

The Courthouse will offer plenty of options for the health conscience, just not tennis.

According to Berryessa, it will include fitness equipment, a turf area and three full basketball courts which will also be used for futsol, an indoor variation of soccer played on a downsized court, and volleyball. A virtual tour of the Courthouse is available on ABK’s website, abkfun.com.

Berryessa, who opened America’s Best Kids on Sky Park Drive in 2001, said he considered three locations to expand — Central Point, south Medford and east Medford — before eventually choosing the RVSTC property at 709 N. Phoenix Road, in east Medford. The building, he added, is 53,000 square feet, has 35-foot ceilings and sits on five acres.

Rogue Valley Swim and Tennis Club owner Conrad Morse announced the deal in a Facebook post Dec. 10. The post was followed by 13 comments, most expressing sadness at the move.

“So sad to see you go,” read one message. “My son enjoyed getting tennis lessons there. Thank you for your years of great service!”

Morse, who opened the club in 1992, said when he and his wife, June Morse, came up with the idea, their chief ambition was to create a place where people could leave their worries behind, rest, relax and exercise. June Morse died in November 2013.

“It was mixed emotions to close the facility, but we had it up for sale for about a year,” Conrad Morse said. “There’s a time for everything, and this was time.”

— Reach reporter Joe Zavala at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com