Photo: Amy Elle

Over the past week, the Billie Jean King Cup trophy has called British Columbia home. Having launched in Montreal, QC on April 19, the iconic silverware’s nationwide tour headed out west to spend some quality time in Canada’s fastest-growing tennis community.

Of course, the trophy wasn’t alone as Vancouverite Rebecca Marino, who was part of the team that won Canada’s first-ever world championship last November, proudly accompanied it to several events and locations in her hometown.

Festivities began with the proclamation of Billie Jean King Cup World Champions Day by Mayor Ken Sim in the Council Chambers of City Hall on Wednesday, May 8, followed by a panel discussion at Jericho Tennis Club involving Marino, Tennis Canada CEO Gavin Ziv, Coach Roberto Brogin and National Junior Training Program athlete, 17-year-old Eliana Kook on Friday May 10. That evening, a Girls. Set. Match. event was held at the Tennis BC HUB involving local young women and girls players.

Photo: Amy Elle

Then, on Saturday May 11, the trophy visited members of the tennis community in Burnaby, the future site of the Pacific Tennis Centre (PTC) project. Held at Burnaby Tennis Club, the event saw Marino joined by Mayor Mike Hurley, President of Tennis BC’s Board of Directors Denise Wong, former Tennis Canada CEO Michael Downey, and Chair of Burnaby Tennis Club Lawrence Kumar.

Reflecting on the last few days hosting the Billie Jean King Cup in BC, Marino said: “It’s been an immensely proud experience being able to bring the Billie Jean King Cup back to my home province as a world champion. We, as a team, are so excited to know the trophy will travel across the country and inspire even more women and girls to pick up a racquet.”

“It’s an honour for us to be able to host this cup here on behalf of Tennis Canada,” Kumar said. “We’ve been able to get all the kids out and our members. It’s also a way to give back to the community. We’ve shown a lot of support, not necessarily just us but the whole lower mainland community, to foster the growth of women’s tennis and this is a way to give back.”

The Pacific Tennis Centre – for the community and Western Canada’s next tennis superstars

The foremost topic of discussion at Saturday’s event was the PTC facility, which, once complete, will feature six fully covered courts and up to four outdoor clay courts. The new home of Tennis Canada’s National Junior Training Program and National Wheelchair Tennis Program, it will be a flagship for accessibility and inclusivity in sport for years to come. As a community-first project, 80% of the court time will be made available for affordable, year-round use.

“We, in BC, see incredible and increased numbers of players on the court,” said Denise Wong of Tennis BC, who will partner with Tennis Canada on the project. “We love being here in Burnaby at the site of the future Pacific Tennis Centre. If we can help work together to build more covered facilities, it not only benefits high-performance athletes but increases accessibility to everyday recreational players and wheelchair players as well. We’re excited to be part of it.”

Photo: Amy Elle

With a commitment already secured from the City of Burnaby, the project requires additional funding from the Provincial and Federal governments before the three-phased plan can be set in motion. That can’t come soon enough, with the facility set to have a big impact on not just the community, but also the province’s most promising future tennis stars. 

“When we have such success either on our women’s or men’s team at the international level, we’re inspiring young kids to pick up a racquet and play,” Wong added. “But, in the past, any players who need to move further on in their careers have to move out of the province. So, having the PTC here in BC gives more tennis players at that level the chance to stay here in-province and actually focus on tennis.”

“To echo what others have already said, a year-round regional tennis centre like the PTC would bring immense value to British Columbia,” Marino added. “BC needs its own regional centre to increase accessibility to the sport and foster the development of players in Western Canada. If there had been a regional centre when I was training as a young athlete, it would have made the world of difference.”

For more information on the Pacific Tennis Centre, click here.

The next stop on the Billie Jean King Cup Champions Tour sees the trophy head to Calgary, Alberta. Click here to see the list of locations it will be visiting.