2007 Public park of the year: Fort Lauderdale Park and Rec
Named in honor of Chris Evert’s father, who was tennis director for 49 years, the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center is the centerpiece of the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department. However, the center is just one of nine facilities offering 47 courts in every corner of the city.
Whitney Kraft, who was director of tennis for Fort Lauderdale for 10 years before becoming director at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in August, says improvements to city recreation facilities mirrored the general downtown revitalization through a $35 million bond approved in 1997. The idea, he says, was “to deliver programs throughout the city so transportation wouldn’t be an issue” for far-spread residents.
The Parks and Rec Department also supports the city’s youth through its partnership with First Serve, a life-skills program. And this past July, the Parks and Rec Department hosted the 81st Annual USTA National Public Parks Tennis Championships.
For all it has done in growing the sport, and keeping youngsters engaged, Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation is RSI’s Public Park of the Year.
“Fort Lauderdale has done an amazing job, including its model relationship with the schools,” says Marcia Bach, the USTA’s Park and Recreation tennis coordinator.
“The courts are full every day,” says Vince Gizzi, a recreation supervisor for the city. “We must be doing something right.”
Tips for success
- Share the wealth. With 47 courts at nine facilities city-wide, tennis players in Fort Lauderdale don’t have to travel far for a match.
- Be a good host. If your facility can’t land a national event, organize charity tournaments to raise funds as well as interest.
- Don’t do it alone. Whitney Kraft says his job as tournament director was significantly eased by many senior citizen volunteers.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.