USTA Florida has expanded its facility management division, as the Vero Beach City Council voted unanimously to enter into a licensing agreement with the non-profit tennis association to manage Riverside Racquet Complex. This will be the fourth USTA Florida-managed facility, joining Racquet Club of Cocoa Beach, Fort Walton Beach Tennis Center, and four tennis parks in Gainesville, that currently operate under the non-profit’s banner.
“We got into this business five years ago to help save public tennis centers that were at risk of closing or struggling to keep players. Today, tennis is booming, and we are expanding our business to help municipalities deliver the best possible tennis experience and programs to their communities,” said Phil Girardi, USTA Florida President.
According to Girardi, Riverside is a perfect fit for USTA Florida to manage. The city itself is home to a number of very active tennis volunteers, including USTA Florida Past President Nancy Morgan and current USTA Florida Board member Kainoa Rosa. Riverside also has a vibrant community tennis association, led by Tim Palmer, who works tirelessly to advocate and deliver tennis programs at the park.
“The partnerships that are already present in this community are truly special. They provide a strong foundation for growth,” said Girardi.
City officials shared a similar desire to expand programs and play at the facility, while keeping existing programs that residents have come to expect.
“We have been working with the USTA-FL for over a year to get this agreement in place. They have a proven track record of working with other municipalities around the state, and we are thrilled to have them as our partner. USTA-FL will have the ability to bring new and improved programming to Riverside, particularly to our city’s youth, while maintaining the offerings our members and patrons currently enjoy. We feel that this partnership will be a win for our residents, and a major boost to tennis in Vero Beach,” shared Jim O’Connell, Director of the Vero Beach Recreation Department.
Since USTA Florida took on its first facility in 2018, tennis participation in the state of Florida has grown by nearly half a million players. The latest tennis participation study shows that more than 100,000 additional Floridians want to start playing tennis, if given the chance. USTA Florida Past President, Dana Andrews, says Vero Beach is positioned well to serve both the existing members and reach new players.
“I have truly enjoyed working with the volunteers and the city representative throughout this process. When I first stepped foot in this park, I knew exactly why the residents love it. If there was a postcard for Florida tennis, this place would be on the front,” Andrews said. “We want everyone in the community to play here – tennis is the sport of a lifetime.”
Riverside Racquet Complex holds a special place in Florida tennis history. American champion Mardy Fish grew up playing tennis with his dad, Tom, on the Riverside courts, just across the street from his home.
“As a tennis-playing Vero Beach resident for over 40 years, I am thrilled that USTA Florida will be taking over the management of the Riverside Park public tennis courts, because no organization knows tennis better than the USTA. Tennis is the ultimate family sport that can be enjoyed together, and Riverside Park is the place where I enjoyed playing the most with my family. It’s where my two children, Mardy and Meredith, first learned to love the game. I know USTA Florida will bring excitement back to the Riverside Park courts to the benefit of all in our community who play tennis or wish to learn,” said Tom Fish.
“My early dreams in tennis began at Riverside Park in Vero Beach and it led me down the road to be able to compete on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Centre Court at Wimbledon and many other wonderful places around the world and I hope that more players can start to realize their own dreams on those very same courts,” said Mardy Fish. “Me and my pals Robert Kowalcyck and Jake Owen and his brother Jarrod and all of our families spent so much time playing tennis at Riverside Park years ago and I know that the USTA Florida will do an amazing job to bring that excitement, joy and energy back and to even greater heights.”
The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation is eager to expand youth play at the Riverside courts to bring back the high level of programming that the Fish family enjoyed decades ago.
“So many more people in our community – kids and adults – will have the opportunity to be introduced to the game of tennis under the management of the USTA Florida, a world-class organization. The tennis facility will finally be brought up to standards that match the beauty of the rest of the Riverside Park area. This will all be done at a savings to our tax paying citizens. We could not have asked for a better win-win situation,” said Lynn Southerly, executive director of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation.
As part of the agreement with the city, USTA Florida will resurface the four remaining tennis courts at Riverside this Spring. The association plans to recruit a full-time head tennis professional and other staff in the coming weeks. The goal is for the facility to be fully managed by USTA Florida in June.
For more information on USTA Florida’s mission and to learn more about its facility management services, visit USTAFlorida.com.