New Tennis Center Holds Grand-Opening

Nov. 17, 2000

For those of you former tennis athletes who spent just as many hours stretching and warming up in Oregon's less than balmy conditions as you did working on your baseline stroke while competing for the Ducks, find some time to make your way back to campus and visit the beautiful new tennis facility that held its grand opening on November 17.

Vice President Dan Williams, Project Head Gregg Lobisser, TBG Architect John Lawless, PARS Director Dennis Munroe and Associate Athletic Director Renee Baumgartner all spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. A free tennis clinic was held afterwards, led by Oregon men's tennis coach Chris Russell, women's coach Jack Griffin and the Physical Activities and Recreation Services (PARS) Tennis Director Greg Smith.

'This is just a tremendous feeling to see this project finally come to fruition after all the hard work that has been put into it by so many entities,' said Russell. 'We now have a facility that is comparable to any in the Pac-10.'

The $2.1 million facility was completed this fall and opened on September 25th for physical education classes and open recreation court time for University of Oregon students, as well as tennis practice for Oregon athletes. The project was a combined effort from the Physical Activities and Recreation Services (PARS) Department, which contributed $1.4 million from student fees, the Athletic Department, which contributed $600,000, and the efforts of Coach Russell and Women's Head Coach Jack Griffin, who were able to gather $100,000 in contributions.

'We are extremely grateful to all the donors who helped us get through this first phase,' said Griffin. 'However, this facility will not be complete until we reach the fundraising goals that will allow us to construct the final phase of the facility.' The final phase includes bathrooms, two additional courts and a permanent theater-style viewing section that will seat nearly 300 fans. The cost will be about $300,000, $20,000 of which has already been raised. In the meantime, approximately 250 aluminum temporary bleachers will be brought in to accommodate the fans. Those fans will also be able to enjoy the six brand new electronic LED Daktronic scoreboards that were installed just before the grand opening.

'The partnership between PARS and Athletics on the construction of the Student Tennis Center was a win-win situation,' said PARS Director of Physical Education Peg Rees. 'Both departments were happy to get some financial relief by not having to each build an indoor facility on our own. But the big winners are the students on campus who can now play tennis comfortably year-round, and of course, the varsity tennis programs who finally step to the front of the Pac-10 with their ability to recruit and compete on a level playing field with the rest of the conference. PARS looks forward to a long and happy partnership with the Athletic Department, and we're off to a great start.'

'This building has already helped our recruiting, without a doubt,' said Russell. 'Two of our current freshmen came here while this was under construction. They could see that the Athletic Department is serious about its commitment to Oregon Tennis. No one else in the Pac-10 can knock our facilities here anymore. Plus, it's a great addition for the general student body as well.'

'This puts us on an even playing level with the other schools in the Pac-10,' agreed Griffin. 'You are only as good as the quality of your practices, and when you're driving around to different clubs in town to practice or fighting just to get warm when playing outside, it is difficult to be consistent. This facility gives our athletes something to be proud of and gives them an added feeling that they are playing for a top-quality program. I believe they in turn will set expectations higher for themselves.'

Coach Russell believes the difference in attitude has been the most important change he's seen. 'We thought the climate change and playing in comfortable conditions would be the biggest improvement,' said Russell. 'What I'm seeing, however, is the difference in the way these guys walk into practice. It's definitely a more professional environment. There is a lot more quality in our workouts because they don't have to grind through the elements. We've had one sub-par practice in the month and a half since we've started this fall, and that's pretty darn good. The court speed is ideal, and we're developing conditions that emulate match conditions, something we weren't quite able to do before. That helps tremendously in our preparation.'

And according to both coaches, their hope is that former athletes, especially those who played tennis, come and take a look at the wonderful new facility. 'Once people come into this building and experience it, they'll want to come back.' said Griffin.

'I really would like to see some of the former players come out here and enjoy this,' said Russell. 'Come out, hit a few balls, watch some tennis. Those players that endured their careers here before us, those were the people that set the table for something like this to happen and for our program to evolve to where it is today. I have enormous respect for them. When I got here five years ago, the tennis teams didn't even have a room that was our own that we could talk in or stretch and get ready in. It was tough to go to other Pac-10 schools and play at their facilities and then come back to ours and try to prepare to beat them. Now we have our own first-rate space that will get even better. It has created a sense of pride here that I would like former players to be able to enjoy with us.'

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