A little bit of Wimbledon is set to open Monday in Carson City, thanks to a long-time tennis coach and the state of Nevada.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3:30 p.m., hosted by Mayor Ray Masayko, will mark the opening of the renovated tennis complex on the grounds of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada.
Two newly surfaced hardcourts, a separate backboard hitting area, and an indoor practice area make up the new facility, which once was an unuseable slab of concrete choked with weeds. Dark green fencing and bleachers give a traditional feel to the courts.
Bob Phelps, a former tennis coach at Santa Clara University who retired to Carson City five years ago, spearheaded the restoration, tracking down donations of time, labor, materials, and money.
"I would drive by and see these rundown courts right in the center of town and wonder if they couldn't be fixed up," he said. Phelps made a few calls, "and one thing led to another," he said.
He became a volunteer tennis director at the Boys & Girls Club, and the project became a blueprint for community cooperation.
The courts, located on state land leased by the Boys and Girls Club, got a big hand from the Nevada Division of Forestry, whose crews cut back overgrowth, dug pads, and ripped out plywood.
McQueary Excavating helped dig up the old surface, and Granite Construction provided four inches of asphalt for the new one. Two Southern California companies, Zaino Tennis Courts Inc. and Plexipave System, donated the color coating, and the Ormsby House put up their workers for the three days the job took. The poles and timbers that framed the backboard came from Sierra Pacific Power Co.
The city Parks and Recreation Department brought by a set of used wooden bleachers and fixed an underground pipe leak. The Carson Tennis Club kicked in $1,000, plus its old ball machine. Phelps himself applied for and got a $2,500 grant from the U.S. Tennis Association of Northern California.
"This is, in all honesty, one of the best community efforts I've seen," said Steve Leube of the USTA. "It was Bob's vision and his keeping on us that got it done."
Leube estimated that restoring the courts alone would have cost $40,000; the entire complex would have run to about $75,000.
"We have to thank the state for allowing us to do this," said Mark Jacoby, assistant executive director of the Boys & Girls Club. "We're ecstatic. Not only can the kids get involved in tennis, but we're right in the middle of the government complex, so the state workers can use them, too."
Ingenuity reigned during the three years the project took. Wood pulled from an old bowling alley became the perimeter fence. A Quonset hut, once a milking barn, is now the new indoor tennis workshop. Phelps, whose ready grin and twinkle shows his enthusiasm for the sport, will use special carpeting and plywood for students to practice their groundstrokes indoors. A mirror will let them view their own mistakes, and a tennis ball on a spindle rigged on a half-circle hoop will help them learn to serve. His tennis program starts Aug. 1.
Both Phelps and Leube said interest in tennis is growing in the Reno-Carson area. With eight courts at Centennial Park, these new ones, and the Plumas tennis courts in Reno, more people are playing in more tournaments and leagues.
"The more the different clubs help each other, the more tennis is going to grow. This is the first step," said Leube.
"Bob's done it all," he said. "He's changed people's perspective of tennis here."