New tennis courts net attention | AspenTimes.com

New tennis courts net attention

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Move over Roland Garros, the Aspen Golf and Tennis Club is about to unveil its own clay-court tennis complex.

OK, the Aspen facility may not have much in common with the tennis stadium that is home to the French Open, but the new public courts will give players who will never see action in a Grand Slam event a chance to play on clay.

The six clay courts next to the municipal golf course and Truscott Place are awaiting some finishing touches and landscaping, but already they are attracting attention. In fact, city officials have been fielding inquiries from local residents who are wondering if Aspen isn’t going overboard with costly clay courts instead of the standard hard-surface courts common to public parks.

“I think people need to be educated that it’s totally the opposite these days,” said Tim Anderson, Aspen’s recreation director.

The city is spending about $400,000 on the courts and landscaping, but Anderson said the decision to install clay courts was an easy one once he looked into the savings in long-term maintenance costs and the revenues that can be generated with clay courts.

Actually, the courts aren’t really clay. They’re made of a synthetic clay that holds up better in the Rocky Mountain freeze/thaw cycles than hard courts, he said. Hard courts crack and require frequent repair, Anderson said.

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“The clay tends to handle the freeze/thaw very well,” he said.

More importantly, people will use them, according to Anderson, who visited both Vail and Breckenridge – two communities that converted hard courts to clay.

Vail converted four of its eight courts to clay and people started using them – and paying to play. The resort then converted its other four courts to clay, as well, according to Anderson.

Half of Breckenridge’s public courts are clay, the others are hard.

“People wait in line to play on the clay courts, the hard-surface courts sit empty,” Anderson said. “The tennis players I’ve heard from are just thrilled that we’re building clay courts.”

The soft surface of clay courts is easier on the knees – a key factor in their popularity, he said.

While upkeep of the courts will be relatively simple, players will be expected to lend a hand.

The lines on the court won’t be chalked in, as they are at Roland Garros, but will be strips of plastic. A little brush on rollers will be available so players can sweep the dust off the lines.

“We also ask that players brush the court when they’re done – just like when you’re playing golf and you’re asked to rake the sand trap,” Anderson said.

Parks personnel will make sure the courts are ready to go each day, he said. The clay won’t need to be watered down with a hose to keep it damp; a subsurface irrigation system will handle that aspect of clay-court maintenance.

The city is planning a grand opening for the tennis facility on Aug. 1 at 5 p.m., though the courts may be ready to play on before then. Tennis players will enjoy a couple of weeks of free tennis at the facility; then the city will begin charging $5 per person per hour to play.

The facility will include a ball board for practice, as well as a ball machine for players to practice returning shots. Once the courts are up and running, the city plans to offer lessons and host tournaments, as well as provide time for the public to play.

Nearby is the city’s new golf clubhouse and restaurant, which will serve the tennis courts, as well.

“I would say we plan to have all the luxuries of a private club, but without the membership fees,” Anderson said.

The city previously had four hard-surface courts at Iselin Park and two next to the golf course. All were free to use.

Two free hard-surface courts remain at Iselin Park; the other two were taken over for ball-field expansion.