By Preston Petri
The Webster University athletics department has been awarded the management of the Webster Groves Memorial Tennis Center (WGTC) starting this month. The WGTC, located near Hixson Middle School off I-44 and Elm Avenue, has been home to Webster’s men’s and women’s tennis teams since 1984.
The Webster athletics department began the process of applying for the management contract in September 2010. The department had to go through a series of interviews with the Webster Groves Recreational Center before their application could be sent to the City of Webster Groves in December.
“They chose us to propose to the city,” said assistant tennis coach Martha Davis. “It wasn’t a big ordeal, we just brought it to the table and the city approved it.”
The management contract runs on a yearly basis and Webster will have to apply every year to extend the contract for another year.
Davis, who will be the full-time manager of the tennis center, thinks the newly managed courts can help bridge a gap between Webster and the Webster Groves residents.
“We’re going to be very organized in scheduling court time, not just for Webster athletics, but also for the community as well as the other schools that will be using the courts,” Davis said.
Men’s and women’s tennis coach Mike Siener agrees that the connection between the Webster Groves community and Webster University is of vast importance, and the Webster-managed WGTC can help strengthen that relationship.
“We want to offer more for the community as well as the school,” Siener said. “We don’t want the Webster Groves community to think that this is just Webster coming to take over; we are putting in more energy and more work to create a great image.”
One way in which the acquisition will benefit Webster and its students is the expanded work study opportunities at the courts. Students will be able to apply for a variety of work study jobs at the tennis center.
“Because this is a non-profit organization, we have a work study budget to work with, so we’re going to have students out there to help supervise the facility and help out with the tennis programs,” Davis said.
Other than flexibility, there isn’t going to be many changes for the Webster tennis teams. They will continue to practice and have their home matches at the WGTC, which is comprised of eight tennis courts and a pro shop. Sophomore men’s tennis player Wakeel Rahman said he enjoys the WGTC very much, and is very excited it is now under Webster University management.
“I like the tennis center a lot; it’s a pretty good tennis atmosphere,” Rahman said. “Webster will benefit from having it because managing it opens up brand new opportunities for students, and more specifically, tennis players.”
In the coming months, the Webster athletics department plans to completely update the tennis center. A new ball machine has already been purchased, there are plans to improve the stringing equipment and there will soon be opportunities for private and group tennis lessons.
Now that the tennis center is managed by Webster, they will be implementing an online reservation system, where people with season passes to the recreational center can reserve court time in advance.
“This (online system) is really going to take the guess work out of it,” Siener said. “There will be no more problems overbooking, and everyone will have an idea what court times are available.”
Siener and Davis plan for the WGTC to be up and running by April of this year. There will be an open house on April 3, from 2 to 5 p.m. The public is invited to come meet the new staff and get acquainted with the new management.