There is Arthur Ashe Stadium, Rod Laver Arena, but how about Mardy Fish Court?
It may happen in Vero Beach, Florida, the hometown of the U.S. Davis Cup captain and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish.
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the charitable organization founded by Fish in 2007, has been in discussions with the City of Vero Beach and the U.S. Tennis Association about refurbishing the town’s Riverside Tennis Complex in its harbor-side location on its central beach island area into a new state-of-the-art tennis complex that would rival many of the nation’s top tennis facilities. The facility would serve as a hub not only for all the local resident tennis players but also for many Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation funded youth programs, as well as junior and adult tournaments, special population programming such as Special Olympics, Wheelchair Tennis, Love Serving Autism as well a potential professional events on an intimate Mardy Fish Court. The Mardy Fish Court would be a beautifully landscaped natural Amphitheatre that would be located on the exact court where a young Fish first learned to play tennis with his father Tom and first dreamed of one day playing at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.
“Riverside Park is where it all started for Mardy and him starting to love the game of tennis, hitting balls with me on that court in the northeast corner of the facility,” said Tom Fish, Mardy’s father and the President Emeritus of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation. “We look forward to hosting many young people in Vero Beach to Riverside Park where they can be inspired by the dreams and successes of Mardy and realize their own hopes and dreams while able to gain important exercise in a safe and healthy environment.”
The USTA worked with the Fish Foundation with a site plan, rendering and business plans for the facility’s operation. It also promised to help fund the project via special grants, but also via special presentation to mega donors during the U.S. Open. However, progress on the project went on a standstill with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the USTA’s finances taking a major hit with a fan-less U.S. Open last year, significantly cutting into its revenue that is used to annually fun tennis in the United States, including projects such as this effort for the Fish Foundation. However, as the country starts to slowly emerge from the pandemic, the Foundation has started to revamp its efforts, including fundraising, to revitalize the facility and increase programming.
“We also see this as being a beatification project,” said Lynn Southerly, executive director of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation. “Improving the courts and surrounding buildings and land would make it as pleasant to look at as our art museum and the Riverside Theatre. It would enhance the couple block area of our charming sea-side town for all our residents to enjoy. A beautiful-looking tennis facility would be a real feather in the cap for our Vero Beach community. A facility of this stature improves our ability to serve our youth and community at large, gives us a place to hold income generating events that would benefit all our residents and local business owners and honor Mardy Fish, one of our great homegrown heroes and role models.”
The Riverside Tennis Complex is also the hub of the newly-created Treasure Coast Tennis Association, founded by former Baylor University women’s tennis coach Tim Palmer. The TCTA in conjunction with the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation completed a wildly-successful free program for Vero Beach children called “Whack-It Wednesday” in the fall of 2020, introducing kids to the sports of tennis and providing them important recreation and exercise. The holiday surge in COVID-19 cases prevented the program from immediately continuing in early 2021, but the program will return this summer. Palmer also has had deep discussions with the USTA Florida office in Orlando about bringing Love Serving Autism and Wheelchair Tennis programming to Riverside Park starting this summer.
Randy Walker, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation’s tournament director for its annual USTA pro circuit event, plans to start to hosting competitive tournaments for juniors and pros this summer and believes that a refurbished hard court facility would be able to host pro tournament, exhibitions and practice and training events for top pros, especially since Florida’s two biggest pro events, the ATP Tour’s Delray Beach Open and the ATP and WTA Tour’s Miami Open, are both played on hard courts. Current top pros Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia and Alexander Zverev of Germany have both recently considered hard-court training in Vero Beach.
The annual Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships ITF World Tennis Tour event brings in an estimated $500,000 in economic impact annually into the Vero Beach community.
Vero Beach is regarded as one of the most enthusiastic tennis communities in the country. It is also the home of Hall of Fame legend Ivan Lendl and former French Open runner-up and top 10 star Mikael Pernfors.
Riverside Park is also the home of the boys and girls tennis teams at St. Edwards School. Walker has made inquiries already received initial interest from a few college programs about playing special dual matches at Riverside Park on the six courts on the west side of the footprint.