Photo : Tennis Canada

Milos Raonic is returning to his roots in the game and joining Tennis Clubs of Canada as partner and shareholder.

His earliest days in tennis were spent playing in the winter bubble at the Blackmore Tennis Club in Richmond Hill, Ont., a club that’s part of Tennis Clubs of Canada as the company embarks on an expansion that will see it grow from five clubs in the Greater Toronto Area to eight in the fall with three new additions, including one in Stratford, Ont., and another in Kingston.

Raonic feels a deep debt of gratitude to Tennis Clubs of Canada founder Terry Redvers. “When I was almost nine years old, Terry was very kind and generous and came to terms with my dad,” Raonic said. “He said ‘just pay this monthly fee,’ which was really nothing compared to the number of hours I was on court (often at 6 a.m. or after 9 p.m.). It gave me the possibility to play as much as I wanted and maybe is why I am where I am today. There’s no way my parents could have afforded to keep me on court that long with regular hourly court fees.”  

“When I spoke with them (Redvers, his chief facilities manager son Trevor and company CEO Adam Seigel) it made sense with what they’re trying to do – give access to the many courts that are in Canada and make them useable year-round.”

Seigel, who jokes that he once had a win over a 12-year-old Milos, said about having Raonic as a partner, “it’s sort of the story of the boy comes home. Milos grew up at our club. He literally grew up in what it is we’re all about – municipal project partnerships for community, affordable courts.”

The company started 43 years ago in Newmarket, Ont., the brainchild of Terry Redvers, and has basically been focused on providing indoor tennis at municipal facilities by negotiating public/private partnerships.

“We’ve always loved being involved in the community and our corporate objective has been to provide affordability and accessibility,” said Seigel. “So we’re not involved in high-end clubs.”

Using its capital, resources, experience and expertise, Tennis Clubs of Canada manages the clubs. “We pay the municipality a lease fee and they turn it over to us,” Seigel explained. “We’re responsible for 100 per cent of expenses and profit. We take care of everything – we pay every expense and receive all revenues including court fees.”

Planning to grow from its eight clubs in Ontario by the end of this year, Tennis Clubs of Canada is in talks with groups in British Columbia and Alberta and intends to add at least four more in 2023.

Raonic, who initiated the restoration of two courts in his old neighbourhood in Thornhill, Ont., is well acquainted with the wear and tear on community courts. “What happens is when the courts don’t get used in the winter,” he said, “they get destroyed by the elements – ice, snow, even salt from the streets. Then the courts are in worse condition in the summer and people are less interested in playing on them.”

Tennis Clubs of Canada is state of the art in club management and innovations focused on winter tennis operations in inflatable structures, which protect the courts from the damage left behind by harsh Canadian winters.

An example of its evolution in indoor tennis is the clear bubble technology that will be a main feature of its arrangement with the Stratford Tennis Club.

There are currently some translucent bubbles but the new one in Stratford will actually be transparent – 93 per cent transparent. “Even on overcast days you don’t need any lights on,” Seigel said. “That saves a lot in terms of energy costs and the environment. And when the sun is out it increases the temperature in the bubble by 10 degrees Celsius. But most important is the aesthetics – you’re talking about in our dreary winters you’re literally bringing light to the park. There are people walking by so it’s also great advertising.”

Having a high-profile partner like Raonic helps promote Tennis Clubs of Canada’s expansion which aligns with Tennis Canada’s “Year-round community tennis strategy” initiative.

“This is marriage made in heaven,” enthused Tennis Canada president Michael Downey. “Canada’s most decorated ATP singles player joining forces with the enterprising group at Tennis Clubs of Canada and its forward-thinking founder Terry Redvers, who helped provide much-needed court time for Milos and his coach Casey Curtis when he was a kid starting out in the game. Milos knows firsthand that Canada is in dire need of affordable year-round tennis courts and he’s trying to do something about it by becoming not only an ambassador but investor in the company.” 

READ : Proud canadian, Milos Raonic invests in the development of new year-round tennis courts in canada

About his involvement with Tennis Clubs of Canada, Raonic summed up, “especially this last year spending so much time away from tennis and having the chance to think through something like this – and despite some day in the distant future when I decide what to do after tennis – I want to have a connection with tennis. Having something like this when there was an early point in my life that made such a big difference – having that connection meant a lot. It’s definitely a nostalgic thing with people that made a difference in my life.

“The opportunity to work with Terry, Trevor and Adam, there’s something very special and rewarding about that.”