Dozens and dozens of mask-wearing visitors took a celebratory tour for a preview of the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, now under development in Zephyrhills.
The center, at 6585 Simons Road, is expected to open in mid to late August.
Numerous cosmetic touches remain on the $4.9 million state-of-the-art facility that’s expected to alter the landscape of The City of Pure Water.
At first glance, the complex’s main attraction, of course, is tennis. It will offer opportunities for beginners to competitive recreational players — and possibly even some elite-level college and professional players.
The complex features 11 regulation outdoor tennis courts — including eight clay surface courts, two hard surface, and a clay surface exhibition court.
It is expected to play host to significant tournaments that come through.
The exhibition court, centrally located among all courts, will offer stadium-tiered seating accommodating up to 1,300 people, and up to 4,000 people if additional bleachers are contracted in for an event.
In addition to tennis, there will be eight pickleball courts and four padel courts — deemed as two of the world’s faster-growing sports.
The padel courts will be the first such courts in Central Florida, said Marcos Del Pilar, a former professional padel player in Spain. He’s heading up padel-related programming at the complex.
Played in doubles, padel combines elements of tennis, squash, racquetball and platform tennis into a fast-moving game played within a glass-enclosed court, one-third the size of a tennis court.
Compared to tennis, Del Pilar explained the game of padel is easier to pick up because of smaller, more compact racquets that are perforated and without strings.
“This is something that everyone can get, in 5 minutes,” said Del Pilar, proudly noting his 70-year-old mother plays five days a week.
Del Pilar added the sport lends to being “very social” and “engaging,” because matches are played in such tight quarters with four people at once.
“You are playing and also spending time with your friends because you’re playing very close. That’s a reason it’s so much fun,” he said.
Beyond offering racquet sports, officials believe the tennis complex’s nearly 8,000-square-foot indoor facility takes the project to the next level. They specifically cite the center’s cutting-edge health and wellness amenities that promote training and recovery.
There are rooms dedicated for cryotherapy, salt therapy, bio/neuro feedback therapy, massage and yoga. There’s also a 1,300-square-foot fitness center featuring workout equipment, including recumbent bikes, rowers and ellipticals.
The salt therapy room figures to be one of the more popular usable spaces. The room will be walled with Himalayan sea salt and floored with granulated salt, so much so that it will resemble walking on sand. Visitors will enter and settle in zero gravity lounge chairs, all while iodized salt-infused air is streamed into the room.
This is being promoted as an area that benefits breathing, provides stress-relief and improves skin.
The center also will have a full restaurant and bar, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays, and brunch and dinner on weekends. The restaurant, operated by Land O’ Lakes-based caterer Mark Vesh, will be able to seat about 60 patrons inside and at least another 100 outside.
Andy Sorrentino, the facility’s managing partner, characterized the center as being unique.
“There’s a lot of wellness clubs, there’s a lot of tennis clubs, but there are not very many, if any, tennis and wellness clubs,” said Sorrentino, who spent 26 years in sports management at Aronimink Golf Club, a private country club outside Philadelphia. “The ability to train here, eat here, play here, get your wellness here, is, very unique.”
The Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center has been in the works for more than three years.
It’s a public-private partnership between the City of Zephyrhills and Pascal Collard, a longtime tennis pro and instructor serving as the facility’s CEO.
The complex will be membership-based, but also open to walk-ins for a nominal fee.
Collard coins the facility as “a little bit of a country club,” yet “accessible to everybody.”
Meanwhile, the facility is already attracting some movers and shakers in the tennis sphere.
Collard revealed that Nick Bollettieri, an International Tennis Hall of Famer who’s coached 10 world No. 1 ranked players, will be offering group lessons about once a month, for ladies, juniors and aspiring coaches.
“The guy basically invented tennis,” Collard said. “You can’t go higher than that in the world, and it’s happening in Zephyrhills.”
Additionally, Collard shared the facility’s tennis director will be Rene Moller, who coaches John Isner, America’s top-ranked men’s tennis player.
The complex is named in honor of Sarah Vande Berg, a former Zephyrhills High School district champion and three-time state qualifier who tragically died in an automobile accident in South Carolina at the age of 21, in October 2015.
Her father, Todd Vande Berg, is the longtime planning director for Zephyrhills.
Participating in the tour, the planning director felt “the whole gamut of emotions” walking throughout the soon-to-open facility named in memory of his daughter.
“It’s surreal. It’s a little bit hard to believe, just how beautiful it has come out,” he said.
The planning director is confident the tennis center will “raise the bar for Zephyrhills and the whole region.”
“It’s just going to be an amazing facility that we think’s going to bring a lot of people here, maybe some tournaments, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “This area is ripe for a facility like this; we’re so fortunate to have this here.”
Published July 08, 2020