By Quan Tran
For the past few weeks, women’s tennis has been playing its matches on Grinnell-Newburg High School’s new tennis courts. The courts, situated on Sunset Street about a mile from campus, will be the official home to both men’s and women’s tennis this season. The reason for this substitution is, according to Director of Athletics and Recreation Andrew Hamilton, that the College’s outdoor courts are deemed unplayable at a competitive level.
“The courts have been deteriorating for a couple of years. [Now, only] five of the six courts are [suitable] for practice, while typical college tournaments need six courts to operate,” Hamilton said.
“A few are unsafe for collegiate practices and competition due to cracks that have formed as pavement has settled with weather and drainage,” said Paige Madara, head coach of men’s and women’s tennis.
Sydney Banach ’18, a member of the women’s tennis team, also cited problems stemming from the cracks. “One of the courts has cracks that make the balls bounce off. You can’t really play on it anymore,” Banach said.
The College is planning to raise the level of its courts and rebuild them at the same location. Construction will take about three and a half months, starting in the spring of 2018.
“We’re taking time to work on [the] new courts’ design and construction plan. If all goes well, we will start constructing early May 2018. It will be completed just prior to when students come back, which is August. That’s also when the women’s team comes back and practices,” Hamilton said.
In the meantime, however, the team must get used to playing on the new courts, and for Banach so far, the transition has been seamless. Still, like any changes, there remain small struggles to overcome.
“They’re good, bright and really orange. They’re really nice and new,” she said. “Sometimes it’s harder to convince my friends to come watch me but once they do, it means a lot. A lot of people did turn up [for our matches], actually.”
“Nice and new” are also words Hamilton used to describe the new courts.
“[The] high school’s facilities are brand new and have excellent surfaces. The courts here are pretty quick, which means the balls bounce faster than they do on our courts.”
Even though they are playing on new courts, the pre-match rituals for Banach and her teammates remain the same.
“We always take a minibus together from the Bear [to the high school]. We usually arrive an hour and fifteen minutes before the match begins because it takes us about an hour to warm up,” Banach said.
Using the high school’s tennis courts has not created many problems. Hamilton, however, acknowledges that there were bitter feelings among the team initially, but he chooses to remain optimistic about the situation.
“I sensed that the team and the coach were disappointed that they can’t play on campus. It’s regrettable that we have to play the fall and spring season on the high school’s courts. On the other hand, I feel fortunate that we can turn to our local school district and be able to utilize those courts.”
The women’s team’s final matches on the high school tennis courts this semester are this weekend, as they host St. Norbert, Ripon and Lawrence on Saturday and Sunday. The men’s team, on the other hand, will begin its one-year tenure on the orange courts in April, when they start their outdoor tennis season.