Photo : Peter Power

Construction continues on a new bubble that, when completed this fall, will cover all five of Ancaster Tennis Club’s courts. The project is part of an ambitious national initiative, Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program presented by Rogers, that will see more than 160 courts become winterized by 2029.

This past March, news broke in the Hamilton area about covered courts coming to Ancaster Tennis Club. No rumours there – the information was included in a Tennis Canada announcement confirming the official start of construction on new “bubbles” to offer Canadians greater access to tennis through the ambitious and needed Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program presented by Rogers.

Located in the heart of Ancaster, part of the City of Hamilton, Ancaster Tennis Club is one of the first clubs to get funding. We recently sat down with Kerry Radigan, president of the club to discuss the news and, in particular, the history and evolution of the project.

Tennis Canada (TC) – How did this opportunity come to be?

Kerry Radigan (KR) – One of our past presidents, Rick Burjaw, was a driving force behind our club’s vision for covered courts. Rick was pivotal in expanding our courts to five in 2012, up from three, as well as upgrading our lights. Never one to rest on his laurels, Rick was part of a team that worked on covered courts. He saw the need early on, especially for our youth. These early efforts helped set the foundations for our fundraising campaign more than four years ago. With the help of members, the Hamilton Future Fund, an interest-free loan from the City of Hamilton and the Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program by Rogers, we were able to secure permits and start construction in December 2021.

TC – What has the reaction been like in the community?

KR – We’ve received a lot of emails from past and present members who’ve expressed enthusiasm about the project. We’ve also heard from residents here and in neighbouring communities who share our excitement. They understand what this means: greater options on sports and family activities during the long winter months and a much-needed chance at greater access to sports for youth, year-round. We’ve noticed that people are driving by simply to check in on the progress. That’s how much this means to many people.

TC – Who will most benefit from covered courts?

KR – Our membership is diverse – from senior players to competitive adult members and lots of families with children. We’ve capped out our membership this year at 650 and now have a waiting list for the 2023 season. The fact that we are going to have twelve months of tennis means people are going to get so much better and increase their skill set. This is especially true of our youth, who are poised to improve their game in a significant way. That means a lot to children and extends to their families. Without the concern for cooperative (or uncooperative!) weather, there are fewer limits on progress and access to courts on an annualized basis. More time on the court means we may be helping one of our young players to become the next Bianca Andreescu.

TC – What does this mean for the future of your club?

KR – The recent growth we’ve experienced and our upgrades serve as a living testimony to our dedicated leadership over the years. Rick Burjaw passed away from cancer before he could see it all, but fortunately tennis advocates like Mathieu Koevoets, our past president, have been able to pick up where Rick left off and move our covered courts dream forward. With too many volunteer hours to count and thank, our membership has shown commitment and unwavering support – everyone has been united on this project, especially with respect to offering more court time to more youth in the community. The final catalyst, however, has been the robust support from our institutional partners, namely Tennis Canada, Rogers, the City of Hamilton, councillor Lloyd Ferguson, Mayor Fred Eisenberger, the Hamilton city council, Hamilton Future Fund, The Farley Group and Demik Construction. It’s amazing to see what can happen when diverse partners collaborate, in this case individuals and representatives from the private and public sectors.

In February 2021, Tennis Canada announced a new seven-year partnership with Rogers, committing to the growth of tennis at all levels across Canada. The partnership, known as the Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program presented by Rogers, has committed to delivering 160 year-round courts at 28 new facilities over the next seven years. The first round of communities that will receive funding was announced in early March 2022 and included facilities in Ancaster, Markham, Waterloo (Quebec), and Calgary.

Michael Downey, President and CEO at Tennis Canada, speaks during a ground breaking event for Tennis Canada’s new Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program presented by Rogers in Hamilton, Ont. on March 25, 2022. (Photo: Peter Power)

Ancaster Rogers Tennis Club originally opened in the 1940s, supported by the local community as a volunteer organization that ran seasonally between April and October. Construction on the dome started in December 2021 with a target construction completion date of May 1, 2022. The dome will be officially installed October 2022 for use in the fall of 2022 and its first winter in 2023. On March 25, 2022, the team at Ancaster Tennis Club hosted an official ceremony with local officials and media.

The Ancaster Tennis Club is located at 291 Lodor Street in the heart of Ancaster and part of the greater Hamilton area which includes Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Hamilton and Stoney Creek. Currently, residents in the City of Hamilton have access to only four covered courts that serve more than 700,000 residents – the equivalent to one court for every 175,000 residents.