All-weather tennis courts proposed for Crotona Park

Crotona Park hosts the annual GHI Bronx Classic professional tennis tournament, a tune up for the U.S. Open. Photo by Victor Chu

Crotona Park could acquire an all-weather tennis shelter in 2010. The news has enthusiasts young and old bubbling.

Linda Verdun is president of the St. Nicholas Tennis Club and a Co-op City resident. She’s been smashing volleys at Crotona Park since the 1960s.

“A bubble – that would be great,” Verdun said. “Winter play!”

The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation recently proposed a $6 million makeover for Crotona Park’s tennis courts. The project will occur in two phases.

During Phase I, expected to cost roughly $1 million, Parks will resurface and re-net ten existing courts. Lights, utilities, nearby pathways and a wooded knoll will receive attention. Parks will also add three tennis courts, raze the facility’s handball courts and install bleachers for 550 spectators.

During Phase 2, Parks could resurface and re-net another ten courts, and construct a bubble shelter foundation. Parks has proposed that a building be established for concessions and classrooms, with an upper terrace and reviewing platform. The building would be funded under a separate appropriation.

The project – set for next winter – should be completed by Spring 2010, Crotona Park administrator Steve Cain said.

“The Crotona Park tennis courts, which host the annual GHI Bronx Classic professional tournament as well as amateur and school tournaments, are an extremely popular neighborhood resource for youth, adults and seniors,” Jesslyn Tiao, Parks spokeswoman, said. “Parks is pleased to be working on the $6 million renovation of the facility.”

The New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL) advocated and secured funding for a public tennis courts project during former Mayor David Dinkins’ administration. The funding became available under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Arguably, Crotona Park boasts the best public tennis courts in the city. Besides the St. Nicholas Tennis Club, Taft High School and Christopher Columbus High School players use the facility.

In the summer, NYJTL offers free clinics for neighborhood kids. The GHI Classic, a U.S. Open tune up, attracts top-notch pros from around the globe. This year’s GHI Classic will take place from August 15 to 23.

Crotona Park’s tennis locker room received a $1.6 million renovation in 2006, but its courts haven’t been resurfaced in ten years. A few are beginning to crack and peel.

Community Board 3 district manager John Dudley is excited about the project.

“It’s great for the community,” he said. “It’s wonderful. We want to be a tennis Mecca in the city.”

NYJTL president Gary Davis is in favor of the Crotona Park tennis bubble and classroom building. His league already uses a tennis bubble in Soundview.

“For the kids in NYC who can’t afford private clubs,” Davis said. “For the kids we’re developing to play Division I college tennis, we’d like to see a world-class facility.”

Crotona Park is quickly becoming just that.

“Our courts provide a great space to play,” Cain said. “Professional grade courts just aren’t available elsewhere, let alone the middle of a beautiful park.”

More from Around NYC