The forthcoming Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center could be an even bigger deal than originally anticipated.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 100 gathered at a recent Zephyrhills City Council meeting to hear the latest details on the facility and to get a first look at a 3D video presentation highlighting its amenities.
Most who were gathered are supporters or partners of the tennis facility project — and the turnout caught the attention of council president Ken Burgess.
The facility’s obvious support, Burgess said, “really shows that it’s going to be top-notch.”
“The energy and the excitement is kind of building,” Burgess said. “We’ve been talking about it for a while, but it’s really on its way. It’s going to be pretty exciting, and we hope that it is going to put Zephyrhills on the map.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said.
The nearly $5 million tennis center broke ground in July at 6585 Simons Road in Zephyrhills. It is expected to open around July 2020.
The project is being hyped as “a world-class tennis facility with access to state-of-the-art performance and health amenities.”
Situated on more than 8 acres of land, the complex will feature 11 outdoor tennis courts (eight clay surface, two hard surface, one clay exhibition court), built to United States Tennis Association (USTA) standards. It also will have eight pickleball courts, four padel courts and an event pavilion.
Also, an adjoining 7,400-square-foot indoor wellness center will have a fitness and rehabilitation studio, salt/sauna room, cryotherapy, pro shop, café, kid’s area and more.
Another major component that is being phased in is a 30,000-square-foot indoor sports field house, which could accommodate up to four tennis courts or soccer fields using artificial turf.
The project is a public-private partnership between the City of Zephyrhills and Pascal Collard, a longtime tennis pro and instructor, who will operate and manage the facility.
It is largely being funded through state appropriations, Penny for Pasco monies, park impact fees and donations.
When it opens, the tennis center is expected to attract local, regional, national and international interest as a host site for major tennis tournaments and competitions.
Ultimately, Collard believes “the sky’s the limit.”
“Our dream is really to get Zephyrhills to become one of the top sports destinations in Florida, and in the country,” said Collard, a former tennis director at Saddlebrook. “It’s not only tennis — but tennis will always be the core.”
Collard also announced the facility will be the home of an online sports instruction program called United Global Academy. The blended program, which is geared toward youth, will be taught by ex-professional athletes in sports such as soccer, football, golf and maybe even boxing.
Aspiring athletes will take online classes, and coaches will be available at the facility to provide further guidance, Collard said.
“I think it’s a missing link in education in sports,” said Collard. “We hope to attract kids from everywhere.”
Though the city is funding the shell of the facility and tennis courts, Collard has leveraged his business connections to bring aboard other frills, explained Zephyrhills planning director Todd Vande Berg.
That includes the facility’s fitness/performance components, and in-house bakery and coffee shop run by Wesley Chapel-based Buttermilk Provisions.
And, because Collard is operating and managing the facility, the city won’t be on the hook for staffing or ongoing maintenance costs, Vande Berg said.
That, he said, is “a big financial piece” the city won’t have to address, unlike many communities with large tennis complexes.
Said Vande Berg, “I’ve been to probably almost every tennis facility in the state and all of them are being run like we’re running them, but I can tell you I think we’re the only one that’s got a contractual agreement where we don’t have to pay…all those fees that other communities are having to pay.”
Meanwhile, site work at the project is moving forward.
General contractor Craig Lamberson of DeLotto & Sons told council members the tennis building is slated to go vertical in December.
The Har-Tru clay tennis layouts will be fitted around that time, a process Lamberson described as “major, complex project” because “water flows beneath the court and is pumped in and out to maintain a great playing surface.”
The general contractor also said there’s already more than a half-mile of reinforced concrete pipe in the ground and storm drainage is about 60% complete. A wastewater lift station will arrive in early November.
“Even though it may not look like it, we are putting a lot of construction in the ground,” he said.
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.
For information on the project, visit SVBtenniscenter.com.
Published November 13, 2019