Starting next week, there will be more opportunities in the Sonoma Valley to learn tennis or improve your game than ever before. The Sonoma Valley Tennis League has announced a series of free programs for virtually all ages, from six on up.
“Long ago, the SVTA decided to offer a free children’s/junior program,” said Barbara Thoreson, president of the league that claims some 150 members. “Now we’re in our eighth year. The pilot program for ages six to 15 was so successful that we started hearing from adults who wanted to return to tennis.”
Some of those adults, said Thoreson, felt they were too rusty or inexperienced to join a club or a team but would dearly love a chance to get back on the courts. So SVTA is starting a similar program for older players.
Both programs will run from April 21 through May 19 at Maxwell Regional Park off Highway 12 just south of Verano Ave., just north of the shopping center, where five courts will be available for the juniors and two will be available for the adults.
The junior program is tailored for players who are 10 or older, able to serve and maintain a rally and are familiar with scoring. The clinics, which will be held Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m., are not tennis lessons per se, but will provide experience in match play and introduce younger players to a friendly yet competitive environment.
A second program is for adult beginners and re-entry tennis players and will run Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Although the programs are free, Thoreson said the league has learned from experience that the best way to ensure attendance is to charge a $20 refundable deposit.
“If you show up or cancel a session for any reason, you will get $5 of your deposit back.”
At the end of the program, those with a solid attendance record will receive a full refund. Since 10 volunteers are needed for each session, the league needs a head count in order to plan accordingly.
All sessions will be supervised by SVTA tennis professional David Stanisic and underwritten by the league, thanks to grants from local organizations such as Kiwanis Club of Sonoma Plaza and Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley.
For an application, call 707.935.6833. Advance enrollment is required. For additional information, call 707.935.6833 or David Stanisic at 415.320.0651.
Stanisic is also offering new tennis classes for juniors, beginning next week. These sessions will require a fee.
“Tennis players will get more variety in their lesson plan,” he said. The pro will combine on-court and off-court activities for participants aged five through 17. (Contact him at the above number or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The competition for court space is heating up, according to Stanisic.
“The number of people playing here has risen astronomically in the two-and-a-half years I’ve been teaching here,” he said. “Now on Saturdays and Sundays, people stick their racquets in the fence and wait for a court until 12:30 or 1 o’clock. More people are motivated and they are playing competitively.”
There are other public courts in Sonoma Valley, though none in as good a shape as those at Maxwell. By summer, however, there may even be more decent facilities available.
Last Saturday morning, six people were playing tennis at Larson Park in Boyes Hot Springs. Judy Muller and husband Art Delaray were on the easternmost court, while Judy Vargas, Michelle Coleman, Eve Grueter and Corky Rosengren were engrossed in a game of doubles on the court at the far end. It was a gorgeous day and no one was waiting to play.
Good thing, too, because the middle two courts have more grass growing on them than most people’s front lawns at this time of year, and both nets were ragged and sagging.
A lot of players have never returned to Larson Park since May 2003, when three new courts were added at Maxwell, bringing the total to five. The expansion had been five years in the making, ever since the Sonoma Valley Tennis Association learned that the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department was planning to build two additional courts directly north of the Parkpoint Health Club.
Four courts would be better than two, thought Marilyn Mertens, then president of the SVTA. “But five would be really nice.”
The league, with the considerable assistance of member volunteer Valerie Walter, embarked on an ambitious cooperative effort with the Sonoma County Regional Parks department, the City of Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Committee and both the national and Northern California sectors of the United States Tennis Association. The deal: The county would build two new courts and provide the league with an exceptional opportunity to add a third one for much less than it would have cost to add a single court.
According to Mark Cleveland of the county parks planning department, the project cost around $200,000. The new layout debuted in May 2003, and affords the league ample space to hold league matches as well as tournaments throughout the year that are open to non-members as well.
Cleveland offers hope to players who prefer the Larson Park location. The Board of Supervisors has okayed money for resurfacing the courts there, he said, and even made the project a priority.
“But we need grant funding to supplement what we have in place,” Cleveland said.
Because of drainage problems and damage inflicted by skateboarders and other non-tennis players, what the courts really need is a major maintenance overhaul. Simple resurfacing would run around $12,000 to $15,000 per court, said Cleveland, but the cost rises to $100,000 per court to do the job correctly so that the surfaces do not have to be recovered every three to four years.
“Normally, courts don’t need resurfacing but every seven to 10 years,” he explained, but Larson needs major renovations to correct problems far beneath the surface.
”It’s a waste of time to just put on a color coating every few years,” he said.
It’s possible that the county will resurface Larson by early summer, but Cleveland makes no guarantees.
Meanwhile, however, improvements at Maxwell include court lighting.
“We just wrote a check for $3,000 to PG&E to light our shed there,” said Thoreson. “That’s the first phase. The county will take care of hiring the labor and getting it done, hopefully by June.”
Only two courts would be lit, most likely by automatic timers. For security reasons, there will be no coin boxes involved; players would just flip a switch when they needed light.
Before then, however, Cleveland said his department will hold public hearings, probably in late March or early April, to air concerns about cutting trees and having two courts lighted after dusk. The parks department will be mailing out postcards but you can keep abreast of developments by checking out the Web site at sonoma-county.org and looking under “Maxwell Park” or “What’s New.”
Those interested in joining the Sonoma Valley Tennis Association may contact Marilyn Mertens at 707.935.1379. Cost of membership is $50 a year (January through December).