Tennis Industry magazine

 

Lake Nona: The ‘New Home for American Tennis’ Takes Shape

By Peter Francesconi

A little over a year from now, the “New Home for American Tennis” at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., should be completed and open for business, with a total of 102 courts, along with office space and much more.

“This is bigger than just tennis,” says Virgil Christian, the USTA’s senior director of market/facility development and collegiate tennis. “We chose Lake Nona and Tavistock Group to help create a ‘sports and innovation district.’ We can make this really dynamic and special. It’s as much a tennis business project as it is a tennis play project.”

The Lake Nona project (which is still searching for a “real” name) was announced in May 2014 and ground was broken this past April. Taking up about 300 acres, the USTA facility, which will cost at least $60 million, will also house the USTA’s Community Tennis and Player Development divisions. About 150 to 200 USTA staffers will be based at the facility, and in fact, some USTA employees have already relocated to the Lake Nona area, working out of temporary offices.

Among the 102 courts will be eight 36-foot and eight 60-foot courts. There will also be a range of surfaces to play on, including DecoTurf, Plexipave, Har-Tru and red clay. In addition, Sport Court will have its PowerGame surface. The indoor facility will have six Rebound Ace courts.

A part of the facility, with 12 hard courts, will be dedicated to college tennis and will be the home courts for the University of Central Florida. “This will be the first tennis venue built off-campus for a college team that I’m aware of,” Christian says, noting that the UCF campus is about 18 miles away. But the college facility will also handle conference tournaments and more.

Organizations have already been expressing interest in bringing events to Lake Nona, and the sheer number and types of courts opens up the facility to a lot of possibilities, including USTA tournaments and events at all levels, Pro Circuit events, a possible ITF event, college “spring break” tennis, and more.

“In 2017, I think we’ll have about 40 events there,” Christian says. “Once we get going, we may have 80 or more. Some will rotate through, but some might want to find a permanent home.” The USTA estimates that more than 100,000 people will use the facility each year.

The entire Lake Nona community is 11 square miles and originally started as a residential community (there currently are about 3,000 occupied homes). But the focus shifted in the last decade to a pioneering Lake Nona Medical City, a carefully planned, 650-acre health and life sciences park.

“The USTA is a key component for our sports innovation performance cluster,” says Taj Adhav, Tavistock’s director of business development for Sports Innovation & Performance. Adhav and his colleagues expect the new USTA facility to serve as an anchor for a world-class sports performance district. Not only is Tavistock and the USTA hoping to attract other tennis organizations and business to Lake Nona, they also are interested in bringing in other performance sports to the area, too.

The tennis facility will be environmentally friendly, and also will be on the cutting edge when it comes to technology. Christian says the USTA is looking at products that analyze players’ strokes, call lines and more. On the grounds, big screens will help direct people to where they need to go, and there will be water features to the site. “We’ve brought the water inside, not outside, because it softens up the look,” Christian notes.

“You’re going to see something that’s really never happened before in this sport,” he says. “It’s going to be pretty dynamic — people coming in, enjoying Lake Nona and Orlando.

“We want to be on the forefront of what needs to happen in the sport,” Christian adds. “We’re working to really make it a ‘wow’ experience for the customer.”

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.

 

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