2004 Private facility of the year: Indian Creek Racquet Club
By Mitch Rustad
Like all highly successful tennis clubs, the amenities at Indian Creek Racquet Club in Overland Park, Kansas — nine, climate-controlled indoor tennis courts, four racquetball courts, fully appointed locker rooms, lounge, café, pro shop, etc. — are top-notch. But it’s the activity inside the club, courtesy of a talented and extensively trained staff, that have made Indian Creek RSI’s Private Facility of the Year.
The club is a hub of both local and national activity: Indian Creek hosts the USTA National Women’s 65, 75 and 85 Indoor Championships, clinics featuring the Kansas City Explorers (the local World TeamTennis franchise) and major charity events for Ribbons of Pink breast cancer awareness and the Arthur Ashe Foundation. Indian Creek offers a lengthy and innovative list of tennis and fitness programs for members of all ages — morning, noon and night, depending on your schedule — and welcomes the general public as a registered Tennis Welcome Center. Its staff is led by General Manager Ajay Pant, who is one of the area’s biggest, and most popular, tennis ambassadors. “Ajay is charismatic, very friendly and personable, so he’s a perfect person to promote the sport of tennis,” says Mike Ralston, communications coordinator of the USTA’s Missouri Valley Section. “He’s tireless when it comes to promoting the sport at the grassroots, sectional, and national levels. He’s the best person we could have down here to act as a spokesperson for the sport.”
That’s certainly no secret to the staff and members at Indian Creek. Pant’s passion for people is most evident in his diligent management approach. Nothing is too good or too clean — and no task too difficult — when it comes to pleasing his members, they’re his No. 1 priority.
“Customer service is our secret,” says Pant, who also manages the Bally Racquet Club in the Kansas City area (both clubs are operated by Chicago-based Tennis Corporation of America). “You ‘wow’ your members and spoil them rotten. You create a huge buzz that this is the place to be.”
In addition to offering a plethora of member activities at Indian Creek, Pant makes sure his entire staff — club manager, director of tennis, teaching pros, membership director, pro shop manager, maintenance manager, etc. — is in total sync with this philosophy, which he admits can be viewed by some as a bit over the top.
“I’ve been accused of being a little too obsessed with these things,” says Pant, “but I think it’s a must. Customer service is 24-7, so you can know your members and anticipate where things can go wrong. It takes a somewhat obsessive personality to get it done.”
But what is Pant’s ultimate barometer of success? His own family literally lives at the facility — his wife plays in several leagues every week, and his two pre-teen children take lessons from staff pros regularly. “I spend my own money here, so it must be pretty darn good,” says Pant. “At the core, if my wife and kids love the club — they think this club is the cat’s whiskers — what more can you ask?
Indian Creek’s Tips for Success
- Create “sticky” programs. Pant makes sure every activity at Indian Creek comes with additional “sticky” activities — after-league team lunches, community and benefit events, birthday parties, pro-ams and more — to encourage greater member participation and enjoyment.
- Reinvest in the club. Don’t wait for a complaint to make upgrades. Indian Creek is constantly (and proactively) improving the facility — court resurfacing, new lighting and backdrops, and even a new TV for the lobby. “The members know we’re spending money on them, and they love it,” says Pant. “People are flabbergasted, but we just tell them ‘we think you’re worth it, don’t you?’”
- Plan your calendar! Indian Creek members know well in advance about any special events, exhibitions, pro-ams, charity events, etc. “These are on our calendar well in advance, and we have a plan on how to market these special events,” via posters and e-mail blasts, says Pant.
- Have a back-up plan. “A huge chunk of what I do is training my staff to have systems to back-up systems,” says Pant. For example, if someone comes to the front desk needing directions, the first system would call for that employee to walk him or her down to the court personally. If the front desk is too busy to allow that, a sales manager or other available staffer takes over.
See all articles by Mitch Rustad
About the Author
Mitch Rustad has been a long-time freelance writer based in New York City.