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Sheridan Opens Indoor Tennis Court Facility

SHERIDAN — Every time Lorna Brooks drove by the construction site of what would become the indoor tennis facility, she became more and more excited. But it wasn’t until the president of the Sheridan Community Tennis Association stepped inside the finished product that she was truly amazed by what had been accomplished. “It’s just really exciting — just to see other people’s responses when they walk in. They’re just in awe,” Brooks said. After several months of construction and many years of fundraising, the indoor tennis facility at Thorne-Rider Park is finally open to the public — just in time for the coldest part of winter. “Our plan is to use this 12 months out of the year — not just six months,” Brooks said. It’s nearly a 15-year-old vision finally realized. The SCTA, a nonprofit group dedicated to the enhancement of tennis, had the dream of setting up a year-round facility for several years, only to hit financial roadblocks. “There were times when I didn’t think it was going to happen, but we all just kept pushing toward it,” Brooks said. They had some substitutes for an indoor facility, but most were far from optimal. Kids and adults took to playing in a warehouse, then made their way to a church. They worked, Brooks said, but you can’t replace the feel of a real tennis court. The SCTA finally gained traction with funding for the project a few years ago. They received a $200,000 anonymous donation and were able to hire a grant writer to help them gather the other monies needed for the project. In the fall of 2014, the SCTA signed an agreement with the Sheridan Athletic Association and the city of Sheridan to put a covering over two of the courts at Thorne-Rider Park. “We probably have this because we were just persistent in keeping our vision,” Brooks said. The Sheridan Recreation District will work closely alongside SCTA, who will take the lead funding and running the facility. The building uses ClearSpan fabric as its covering, which is essentially a heavy-duty tent material. The structure encompasses two regulation-sized courts with plenty of room for spectators and the covering is expected to last 25 years. Utility costs are fairly minimal. The ceiling is translucent and uses sunlight to light the courts. Heaters keep the facility around 50 degrees during the coldest days — a temperature Brooks said has been perfect for players sprinting from one side of the court to the other. “No one has complained about it. There have been girls in here playing in tank tops and skirts and they say they have been very comfortable with the temperature in (the indoor tennis facility),” Brooks said. Summer conditions inside the bubble are expected to be favorable as well because retractable walls will allow air to flow from one side of the courts to the other. If you ask Brooks, the real prize is being able to allow the next generations of tennis players to hone their skills. As someone who works to train young tennis players, and with several grandchildren who have taken to the sport as well, Brooks said being able to work on a backhand in both the heat of summer and the dead of winter is important. “It will keep them going, it will keep them playing year round. They don’t have to stop playing when it snows or rains,” Brooks said. It’s more than playable as is, but Brooks said there is still plenty of work to be done. The first goal is to resurface the courts. The courts took a beating from equipment during the construction phase. The SCTA has managed to fill in many of the chips and divots with manual patchwork, but optimally, the group wants an entirely new surface. However, it wont be cheap. Brooks puts the cost of refurbishing the court at around $20,000. The SCTA members will continue working to raise the additional funds to put the final touches on the facility. But for now, the SCTA and Brooks are thankful they have a place to play a couple sets of tennis without facing the cold.