A groundbreaking ceremony officially marked the beginning of construction on the long-awaited Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center in Zephyrhills.
After more than two years of planning and design, the tennis center is slated to be ready for play sometime in spring 2020.
The facility will feature 11 outdoor tennis courts (eight clay surface, two hard surface, exhibition court), built to USTA (United States Tennis Association) standards, along with eight pickleball courts and four padel courts. The tennis center also includes a 7,000-square-foot indoor clubhouse that will have a fitness and rehabilitation center, restaurant and cafe, pro shop, kid’s club and other amenities.
It will be located at 6585 Simons Road, Zephyrhills.
The project comes with a $3.3 million price tag, largely funded through state appropriations, Penny for Pasco monies, park impact fees and other donations.
The July 10 groundbreaking attracted a large crowd of dignitaries, business leaders and local residents to the site where the tennis facility will operate.
It marked a highly anticipated moment for many, as public talks of bringing a large-scale tennis center to the city began back in late 2016.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield said. “They’re going to build a beautiful building on this site.”
“Nothing’s going to make us happier than seeing this facility coming out of the ground,” said Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe.
Zephyrhills planning director Todd Vande Berg added: “It is a special day and it’s been a long time coming, but we’re glad this day is here.”
Officials say the tennis center will be not just a regional draw, but also will have national and international appeal through hosting USTA tournaments and other events.
Poe described the forthcoming facility as “an absolutely wonderful complex” that will help boost tourism and economic development in the area.
“Zephyrhills is known for water and skydiving. Soon we’re going to be known for tennis,” the city manager said.
He added, “Who knows, we very well may have a future Grand Slam champion that can say they started here at this facility. The facility will serve as an economic driver, not only for Zephyrhills, but for all of East Pasco.”
The tennis center is named in memory of Sarah Vande Berg, a former Zephyrhills High School district tennis champion, who died in an automobile accident at the age of 21 in October 2015. She was the daughter of longtime city planning director Todd Vande Berg.
Sarah Vande Berg would have just turned 25 years old. Her birthday was July 7.
“I know she’s looking down from heaven, smiling, thinking, ‘Wow, this is pretty special,’ her father, holding back tears, said at the groundbreaking.
“Sarah was a special person. She was a special daughter, and special in so many ways in how she cared for and loved other people.”
Sarah Vande Berg was noted for her sportsmanship on and off the courts.
Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano recalled his daughter — former Fivay High School tennis standout and current state Rep. Amber Mariano — losing to Sarah Vande Berg in a prep match “probably 6-love, 6-love each time.”
“She was a great competitor,” Mariano said of Sarah Vande Berg. “She played with class, she played with classiness after the fact (and) great sportsmanship.”
The Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center is a public-private partnership between the City of Zephyrhills and Tennis P.R.O., and its owner Pascal Collard, who will staff, operate and manage the tennis facility.
Collard is a former tennis director at Saddebrook who has trained his fair share of world-ranked tennis players.
Of the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, Collard said, “I’m going to try my best to make it unique.”
Collard also declared this lofty ambition: “There’s not one tennis player in the world that won’t know Sarah’s name. Not one. I promise you that.”
Published July 17, 2019