New year-round tennis court in Waterloo

By Taylor McClure – Special to Brome County News

The Town of Waterloo is getting its own year-round tennis court. Tennis Canada, in partnership with Rogers, is collaborating with various municipalities across the country to make tennis more accessible after discovering that only 750 tennis courts are available for year-round play in Canada. After checking off all of their boxes in terms of criteria, it was announced last Wednesday that the former Club de Tennis François Godbout will be getting an air support structure and a new name under Club de tennis intérieur François Godbout présenté par Rogers.

“We started a few years ago to develop a strategy and once we continued with research across the country, we found that only 10 per cent of tennis courts are available for year-round play,” said Anita Comella, senior director of facilities development for Tennis Canada. “So, we have about 7,500 tennis courts across the country, according to our research, but there are only about 750 covered for year-round play. Given the country that we are and the winters we have, we thought we would take some action.”

Tennis Canada partnered with Rogers to create the Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program and did a partnership strategy for municipalities as they are the largest recreational landholders. “We brought Rogers on who has kindly contributed funding so that we can put money on the table for communities willing to cover their existing courts,” added Comella. “We don’t necessarily specify what kind of structure it has to be, but in most cases, it will be air support structures which essentially puts a dome over the tennis courts so they can play all though the winter and that’s the structure going up in Waterloo.”

The program has various criteria, including demonstrating that there is an existing tennis community, sustainability of the courts, community and municipal support, and proximity to other courts.
“Waterloo has a large draw form surrounding areas so it bumps up the population that will be served from these courts. They have a supportive municipal council, the mayor and the entire town council is very supportive of the project, they have a very strong operator who will take over operations of the project, and an incredible philanthropist and donor in François Godbout who is supportive. They check all other criteria boxes so it’s the perfect community for this project,” explained Comella.

Norman Rothsching, operator for Club de tennis François Godbout and founder of Tennis ENRJ, the non-profit that will run the indoor centre and that is responsible for the tennis programming and instruction in Waterloo, Cowansville, and Bromont, played a large role in instigating the project.

“Mr. Godbout, a well-known former resident of Waterloo and very generous donor giving to multiple projects throughout the town, said he would contribute to this project if I was able to get the $200,000 bursary from Tennis Canada,” explained Rothsching. “I asked the town if they would contribute 25 per cent to the project, we needed the town’s approval to apply for the bursary, and it ended up all working out.”

As a tennis coach and physical education teacher for over 20 years, Rothsching said that any player dreams of having their own facilities.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to play year-round. A lot of people, they don’t necessarily give up on tennis, but they don’t have anywhere else to play so they change sports for the remainder of the year,” he explained. “Our objective is to be designated by Quebec as a tennis development centre where we have tournaments, certified coaches, and a certain amount of juniors (17 and under) participating.”

Working with the town for five years to develop a thriving tennis community through programs, summer camps, and after school activities, Waterloo eclipsed over 500 reservations last year and Rothsching hopes to get more people involved in the game.

“We have competitions every two years, we have the under 18 provincial championships here in the summer, and it will be helpful for players,” said Rothsching. “We are mainly focusing on getting people into the game, but the more people that are playing, the more people there will be competing.”

Now that Waterloo has a space where people from across the region can learn and compete, Rothsching is looking forward to what the new tennis court will contribute to the community. “Through the Tennis Canada program Build Tennis Community, I learned how to go through the three phases of the pyramid; introduction, giving children chance to try tennis, play, and compete model,” mentioned Rothsching. “We are getting kids to try, play, and then get some to compete. That is the key to my success when I have been working over the years. It’s a proven solution and I look forward to filling up the courts once we have activities for all ages and abilities as soon as possible.”

The new air support structure is expected to be installed in the middle of October to the middle of April every year and Rothsching hopes that other towns in Quebec will follow suit. “Give opportunity to your community. We need more keen tennis players out there to think about setting up their own bubbles,” he added.

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