2006 Private facility of the year: Midtown Tennis Center
Home to 37 tennis professionals, 18 tennis courts, three platform tennis courts, an extensive pro shop, a nursery, café, fitness center, and Pilates studio, the Midtown Tennis Club was the first of the 13 Tennis Corporation of America clubs to open in the Chicago area. TCA, which has a well-deserved reputation for outstanding tennis facilities, was founded by former USTA President Alan Schwartz and his father 36 years ago. Schwartz and his son, Steven, still run the company.
As the flagship for TCA, Midtown has a lot going for it. And it’s this combination of amazing facilities, programs, and personnel that has led us to name Midtown Tennis Club as RSI’s 2006 Private Facility of the Year.
Midtown, says club member Bennet Wang, “pays attention to every detail and is constantly making improvements. They have a hard-working, dedicated staff and cater to their membership in a very family-oriented, unpretentious way.” Wang and his family have been members of the club for three years.
The club features one-of-a-kind comprehensive programs for toddlers through seniors. Along with leagues, instruction at all levels, and inter- and intra-club play, Midtown features a Junior Development Program that teaches skills and encourages a love of the game by providing kids 3 to 18 with a solid background in tennis basics.
One of the club’s biggest success stories is its innovative “Tennis in No Time” program, designed for beginners. The patented TNT program is held every May and June and uses a multi-media approach to teaching tennis, employing on-court and off-court instruction and videotaping. Since Midtown Tennis Club opened in October 1970, about 25,000 people have participated in TNT, and this past spring, the TNT program introduced 950 “newbies” to the game.
“Tennischools” is another original program for newcomers, offered monthly. It’s a modified version of Tennis in No Time and attracts about 125 beginning players each month.
General Manager Michael Mahoney (above right) stresses the importance of the atmosphere Midtown has sought to create. “It’s a social atmosphere where you can build old and new relationships,” he says. “The club becomes part of your routine for exercise and a healthy lifestyle. We offer everything in a very deep and rich way to accommodate all levels of play.”
Health and fitness is big at Midtown. According to the Tennis Industry Association, the club has one of the most successful Cardio Tennis programs in the country. The 16 Cardio classes (advanced classes are also offered) pull in more than 100 participants each week.
Midtown also hosts about 12 events a month with strong social elements to them, such as a wine or beer tasting or a coffee-house theme. “This makes it more than a tennis club,” says Mahoney. “We’re here to connect with and serve our members.”
Head Pro Butch Staples (above left) has been with Midtown for a year, after working at another TCA club in Florida and prior to that, at the PTR Headquarters in Hilton Head, S.C. With fellow pro Mike Barrell, Staples created the Junior Development Pathway, to allow 6- to 8-year-olds “a chance to learn with graduated-sized balls, courts and nets,” he says.
The club also hosts a number of high profile national events throughout the year, including many junior tournaments. In February, the Men’s National Indoor Collegiate Championships, an Intercollegiate Tennis Association event, will be played at Midtown.
But Midtown is more than just a club for area tennis players; it’s also a leader within the industry itself.
“In all my travels around the country to various clubs and events,” says Jim Burda, the director of U.S. promotions for Wilson Sporting Goods, “Midtown is more involved in the tennis industry and community than any other club.”
“What really distinguishes Midtown,” says Wang, “is its mission to be part of and promote tennis now and in the future, not only in Chicago but globally.”
Midtown Tennis Club’s tips for success
- Have a process to recruit, hire, and reward enthusiastic, qualified, and service-minded professionals that includes opportunities for advancement and professional development.
- Create programs with your members’ needs in mind: convenient schedule, compatible groups, and fun. Serving specific niches is important: beginners, juniors, seniors, early birds, night owls.
- Create programs that will introduce new players to each other and include a social element.
- Always offer beginning players the most convenient time slots for lessons.
See all articles by Cynthia Sherman
About the Author
Cynthia Sherman is a contributing editor for Tennis Industry magazine.